Security officers stand patrol outside the courthouse in Pakistan Thursday after verdicts were announced in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Photo by S. Shazad/EPA
Aug. 31 (UPI) -- After nearly a decade-long trial, two security officers were sentenced on Thursday to 17-years in prison for failing to protect former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from being assassinated in 2007.
An anti-terrorism court handed down the verdicts and the sentences Thursday, which convicted two police officers and acquitted five suspected militants in Bhutto's death.
Bhutto served as Pakistan's prime minister twice before being killed by a gun-and-bomb attack after a campaign rally. Authorities at the time claimed that the Taliban was behind the attack. Twenty-two people died along with Bhutto.
However, the court acquitted defendants Aitzaz Shah, Sher Zaman, Abdul Rasheed, Rafaqat Hussain and Hasnain Gul who had all been accused of being Talibani militants associated with the assassination.
According to Pakistan Today, they had initially been charged with "killing, hatching a criminal conspiracy to kill, assisting the perpetrators, using illegal explosive material and spreading terrorism".
The lawyer for the five suspects argued that Benazir strayed from U.S. policy and, therefore, the United States was to blame for Bhutto's death.
The courts on Thursday also declared Pakistan's president at the time of the assassination, Pervez Musharraf, as an "absconder".
Musharraf has been out of Pakistan since 2016 and will be arrested and brought to trial if he returns. Authorities have been ordered to seize his property.
Bhutto was killed in Rawalpindi, just weeks after she returned to Pakistan after years of self-imposed exile.