Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif spoke out publicly today for the first time since the army swept him from power last month, insisting that he is innocent of treason and railing against the military leadership that is putting him on trial.
Sharif, making his second appearance before a special anti-terrorism court, also was allowed to meet with his wife and family, whom he had not seen since his Oct. 12 ouster by soldiers loyal to army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
"I have been subjected to solitary confinement," Sharif told reporters in the courtroom. "I was not given newspapers or television. There was no contact with the outside world. I was confined to a room and I did not know what was happening outside the room."
"We are still subjected to the same treatment," he added, saying his son and brother were also being held.
The appearance before the judge--who ordered the continuation of Sharif's detention--was the ousted leader's first opportunity to speak at length to journalists. Previously, he had passed notes through lawyers or was quoted by aides.
Sharif has been charged with treason, hijacking and conspiracy to murder, because he allegedly denied a plane carrying Musharraf and about 200 passengers permission to land. The charges carry the death penalty or life in prison. Seven other officials face similar charges.
Sharif returns to court Friday, when charges are to be filed.
"We are all innocent," Sharif said while waiting for the judge to appear. "We are not involved in any of these accusations or allegations that have been framed [against] us. We know we have not done anything wrong."
He accused the military of illegally taking power and said it had brought the charges in an attempt to justify their coup against his civilian government.
"Nobody has a right to remove us from office. We are a democratically elected government," he said. "Whatever has been done has no basis, no justification."