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Treason trial of Pakistan's Musharraf disrupted by bomb

Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers cordon off a special court which was set up to try former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad Tuesday.

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf failed to attend the first day of his high treason trial Tuesday because of a bomb found near his home, an official said.

Pakistani security official Mohammed Ali told The Associated Press that a bomb and two pistols were found about half a mile away from the former general's residence in the Islamabad suburbs.

The start of the trial was postponed to New Year's Day when Musharraf is due to be formally indicted in front of the court, Justice Faisal Arab, the lead judge in the case, told NBC News.

Prosecutors say Musharraf violated the constitution when he imposed emergency rule in 2007. It is the first treason court case held in Pakistan, and if found guilty the former general could be executed.

"Under high treason laws the court may award [Musharraf] death or 14 years’ imprisonment," Akram Sheikh the chief prosecutor said.

Prosecutor Nasiruddin Nayyer confirmed to NBC News after the proceedings that Musharraf would be formally indicted on New Year’s Day.

The former general faces five charges of violating the constitution in November, 2007, when he introduced emergency powers which deposed more than 60 judges of the supreme and high courts and suspended the constitution.

Musharraf's lawyer Anwer Mansoor told the court Tuesday that the proceedings were "biased, out of jurisdiction, and illegal."

An international team of lawyers acting from London on behalf of Mursarraf appealed last week to the United Nations to intervene in the case, Reuters reported. They claimed it was a "show trial" concocted by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The lawyers said the trial is Sharif’s revenge against Mursarraf for ousting him in a 1999 coup when he was head of the army.

The judges have been selected by Sharif and will not conduct a fair trial, they added.

"Politicians have no business hand-picking judges to try their opponents," Steven Kay, a member of Musharraf's legal team, told Reuters.

Musharraf’s lawyers cited the ex-general's "immense assistance" to the West during his time in office. He was a key ally in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

They sent their complaint to a U.N. special rapporteur who investigates judicial independence and has recently reported on high-profile cases in Sri Lanka and Iraq. The document was also sent to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

After Musharraf's rule, civilian government was restored in Pakistan in 2008 and the general went into self imposed exile. He returned in March this year to contest elections, but was disqualified from standing because of pending court cases.

He has been arrested for several alleged crimes, including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and a Baloch tribal leader, for which he has received bail. Most recently he was arrested in October amid accusations that he was responsible for the deaths of more than 100 people when he allegedly ordered a 2007 mosque raid.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.