A court in Pakistan has charged former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with treason, the first army chief to face such a prosecution.
Mr Musharraf is accused of unlawfully suspending the constitution and instituting emergency rule in 2007. He pleaded not guilty and has always claimed that the charges against him are politically motivated. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
President from 2001 to 2008, he was one of Pakistan’s longest-serving rulers. He went into self-imposed exile in 2008, returning to Pakistan in March 2013.
He had hoped to lead his party into elections, but was disqualified from standing and found himself fighting an array of charges relating to his time in power.
The 70-year-old has been in hospital since the beginning of the year and reports say he is being treated for high blood pressure. The judge read out five charges to Mr Musharraf.
He pleaded “not guilty” to each of them but also addressed the court with a speech about his services to the country and questioned how he could be called a traitor, declaring that he was a patriot.
“I am being called a traitor, I have been chief of army staff for nine years and I have served this army for 45 years. I have fought two wars and it is ‘treason’?” the Agence France-Presse news agency quotes him as saying.
Mr Musharraf insists that he acted within the constitution when he declared a state of emergency in the country in 2007 and that he did not act alone when taking that decision.
The BBC’s Shaan Khan, at the scene, reports that when the former president entered the court he was heavily guarded, but nevertheless appeared relaxed, even waving to the audience.
The court has adjourned and its next task is to decide whether Mr Musharraf will be allowed to leave the country to visit his sick mother in Dubai.
He is currently on the exit control list which restricts certain Pakistani nationals from leaving the country and is under house arrest.