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Pak asks court to uphold curbs on scientist

Pakistan asked a court not to withdraw restrictions on disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan because he risked implicating the state in nuclear proliferation.
By HT Correspondent | Reuters, Islamabad
UPDATED ON JUL 15, 2008 08:33 PM IST

Pakistan on Tuesday asked a court not to withdraw restrictions on disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan because he risked implicating the state in nuclear proliferation, a government lawyer said.

Khan, lionised by many Pakistanis as the father of the country's atomic bomb, was pardoned but placed under house arrest by President Pervez Musharraf in 2004 soon after he made a televised confession to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

The scientist subsequently said he had been persuaded to confess and take the rap alone for the good of Pakistan. Khan says the government broke commitments that he would be rehabilitated and allowed to move freely inside the country.

Khan's wife has filed a case in an Islamabad high court seeking his freedom, but the government on Tuesday called for tightening restrictions on the scientist, saying recent statements he had given to media were damaging to the state.

"He should not meet people freely and only should meet relatives, because statements (that) have been issued (during) these interactions have been legally damaging for Pakistan," government lawyer Ahmer Bilal Sufi told Reuters.

"These were against a state institution, particularly the statement he made on July 5 that had legal affects of attributing a specific role to Pakistan which is also untrue."

In a report earlier this month, the Associated Press quoted Khan as saying the army, Musharraf and the country's spy agency had "complete knowledge" of sale of centrifuges to North Korea eight years ago.

In response, the military said Khan was seeking to falsely implicate Musharraf, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the army and the Strategic Planning Division that oversees Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Sufi said lawyers from both sides would brief the chief justice in camera on Wednesday.

Pakistan's new coalition government, made up of parties that defeated Musharraf's allies in a February election, recently relaxed some restrictions on Khan's detention and he has been able to talk to the media on the telephone.

But the government has not said it would release the 72-year-old scientist, who had surgery for prostate cancer in 2006.

The United States and an International Atomic Energy Agency team investigating nuclear proliferation want to question Khan.

Pakistan has refused, saying it has shared all the information Khan has given, and now considers its investigation of Khan to be closed.

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