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Pakistani court acquits ex-President Musharraf of murder over a 2006 killing of separatist leader in Baluchistan province

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QUETTA, Pakistan — A court acquitted former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf Monday in a murder case involving the killing of a separatist leader, Akbar Bugti, who had died in a 2006 military operation in Baluchistan province, lawyers said.

An anti-terrorism court announced the verdict in the southwestern city of Quetta, Baluchistan's provincial capital.

The court accepted the defense's argument that Musharraf had nothing to do with the killing, said his lawyer Akhtar Shah. He added that he had been pleading his client's innocence ever since the case was registered in 2009.

Musharraf's government in mid-2000s launched a crackdown on separatist insurgents in Baluchistan province and Bugti was killed in a raid in 2006. Separatists in the province want complete autonomy from Islamabad and have been fighting for a greater share of revenue from their region's natural resources.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Saturday, April 20, 2013 file photo, Pakistan's former President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf arrives at an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad, Pakistan. A court on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 has acquitted Musharraf from murder case involving the killing of a nationalist leader, Akbar Bugti, who had died in a military operation. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, April 20, 2013 file photo, Pakistan's former President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf arrives at an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad, Pakistan. A court on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 has acquitted Musharraf from murder case involving the killing of a nationalist leader, Akbar Bugti, who had died in a military operation. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed, File)

The case against Musharraf was brought by Bugti's son, Jamil Bugti.

Bugti's lawyer Sohail Rajput said he will appeal the verdict in a higher court. He alleged favoritism extended to the former military dictator due to his powerful background.

The 70-year-old Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup and then stepped down in 2008. He later left the country, but returned to Pakistan in March 2013, hoping for a political comeback.

Instead, he got embroiled in court cases, including one involving treason charges, which are connected to his decision in 2007 to declare a state of emergency and detain senior judges, including the chief justice.

Musharraf, who was not in court Monday, has been released on bail pending all cases against him. He lives under tight security in the southern port city of Karachi.

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