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Bhutto Freed After 25 Days in 'Filthy Cell'

September 08, 1986|United Press International

KARACHI, Pakistan — Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and other dissident leaders were released today after weeks of detention in a crackdown on opponents demanding democratic elections.

Bhutto, 33, was released after 25 days in custody and just 12 hours before she was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday to contest the government's 30-day detention order against her as "illegal, unconstitutional and mala fide. "

Bhutto, head of the influential Pakistan People's Party, was arrested while talking to reporters in her Karachi home, which authorities said violated a public gatherings ban issued on the eve of nationwide anti-government rallies.

Thousands Detained

Bhutto told reporters at her home that she believed at least 10 other dissident leaders had been released. The government has not disclosed the number of people detained but unofficial estimates range from 2,000 to 10,000.

Bhutto said she was released because the government of President Zia ul-Haq knew her detention was illegal and a court would have freed her.

"I was illegally detained by this regime," Bhutto said.

The government rounded up hundreds of dissidents in a nationwide crackdown that began Aug. 13, the eve of protests planned nationwide to demand democratic elections.

Bhutto, who returned from self-exile in April and vowed to return democracy to Pakistan, said she was not tortured or mistreated but was threatened with a sedition charge.

"They said they could put me away forever," she said.

Bhutto said she was kept in solitary confinement in a filthy cell in which "there were a lot of flies and mosquitoes and cockroaches.

Bhutto said she feared her freedom would be short lived.

"I am sure they are trying to cook something up even now," she said.

Opposition drive falters. Page 11.

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