A court in Pakistan has annulled the death sentence handed down to Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler, asserting that the special tribunal that issued the verdict was unconstitutional.
The High Court in the eastern city of Lahore ruled that the formation of the tribunal was also "illegal," Musharraf's legal team as well as government prosecutors said on Monday.
"The filing of the complaint, the constitution of the court, the selection of the prosecution team are illegal, declared to be illegal... And at the end of the day the full judgment has been set aside," said Ishtiaq A. Khan, the prosecutor representing the government.
"Yes, he is a free man. Right now there is no judgment against him any longer."
Musharraf's lawyer, Azhar Siddique, told media outlets that the court had “nullified everything.”
The prosecution now has the option to file a new case against Musharraf with the approval of the federal cabinet.
Musharraf, who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, was sentenced to death in absentia by the tribunal in December on treason charges concerning his decision to suspend the constitution and impose a state of emergency in 2007.
Two out of three judges on the special court found Musharraf guilty, marking the first time that a former leader of the armed forces faced such a sentence in Pakistan.
The military maintains a strong influence in Pakistan and senior officers are often considered immune from prosecution.
The treason trial, which began in 2013 and is just one of several involving Musharraf, centered on his decision to suspend the constitution and impose emergency rule in 2007.
Musharraf first took power after ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999.
The general became a key US ally in the ‘war on terror’ after the September 11, 2001 attacks and escaped at least three assassination attempts during his nine years in office.
His rule faced no serious challenge until he attempted to sack the Supreme Court chief justice in March 2007, sparking nationwide months of turmoil that led to the imposition of emergency rule.
After the December 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf was left increasingly isolated by the crushing losses suffered by his allies in February 2008 elections.
In August 2008, he finally resigned in the face of impeachment proceedings by the new governing coalition and went into exile.
In 2017, a court declared him a fugitive and demanded his arrest if he ever returned.