Pakistan lifts Musharraf house arrest

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Pakistan formally freed former ruler Pervez Musharraf from house arrest on Thursday after a court granted him bail in the last criminal case against him.

But the retired general remains under heavy guard in his villa on the edge of Islamabad because of serious threats to his life.

The Taliban have threatened to kill Musharraf, who as president allied Islamabad with Washington in the U.S. “war on terror” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

An Islamabad district court on Monday granted the 70-year-old bail over a deadly raid on a radical mosque in the capital in 2007, the last of the cases against him dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.

Prison staff left the house, which had been declared a “sub-jail”, on Thursday after Musharraf's legal team submitted bail bonds totalling 200,000 rupees ($2,000).

“We received written orders from Islamabad city administration this morning and we have called back the prison officials deployed at his house,” Malik Mushtaq, the superintendent of Adiala prison in Rawalpindi, told AFP.

Jawad Paul, the head of Islamabad's local administration, confirmed the news.

“Musharraf is a free man now, his house is no more a sub-prison,” he told AFP.

His lawyer Ilyas Siddiqui said Musharraf was free to go wherever he wants in Pakistan, though his name remains on a government exit control list, meaning he is unable to leave the country.

Former commando Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after years of self-imposed exile to run in the May general election, vowing to “save” the country from economic collapse and militancy.

But he was barred from contesting the poll, which was won convincingly by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif -- the man he ousted from power in 1999 -- and was hit with a series of criminal cases dating back to his rule.

Musharraf has faced charges over former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's murder at an election rally in 2007, the death of a Baluch rebel leader in 2006 and the detention of judges in 2007.

He was put under house arrest in April, an unprecedented move against a former army chief in a country where the military holds huge power.

There have been persistent rumors in recent months that a deal would be reached for Musharraf to leave Pakistan to avoid the embarrassment of a former army chief being tried in a civilian court.

But another of his lawyers, Afshan Adil, said Musharraf would fight the cases against him and planned to remain in Islamabad for the time being.

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