Court postpones hearing in Zardari case

Aug. 27, 2012 at 6:59 AM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court granted a three-week delay Monday in a hearing on the reopening of alleged graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, under court pressure to write to Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against Zardari, sought more time to comply with the court order.

The court adjourned the hearing until Sept. 18 after Ashraf assured the judges steps would be taken to comply, the Dawn newspaper reported.

"I need time to understand the matter ... as it involves certain legal and constitutional points," the prime minister was quoted as saying in court. "I need enough time from the court to seek the assistance of constitutional and legal experts."

The high court had earlier struck down as unconstitutional a new law passed by Parliament exempting top government officials from contempt-of-court charges.

Ashraf became prime minister in July after his predecessor, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, had to leave office for failing to write to the Swiss authorities. The government has maintained the cases cannot be reopened because Zardari enjoys presidential immunity.

Ashraf could face a similar confrontation with the court if his government does not write the letter.

The cases against Zardari and his slain wife, Benazir Bhutto, date back several years and relate to millions of dollars in alleged kickbacks from Swiss firms.

The Pakistani high court has been pressing the government to reopen the cases since 2009 after ruling against the constitutionality of a graft amnesty granted by former president Pervez Musharraf.

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