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Pakistan frees Musharraf from house arrest

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan has freed former President Pervez Musharraf from his months-long house arrest, days after he received bail in a case related to the death of a radical cleric, a prison official said Thursday.

Prison officials were withdrawn on Wednesday night from Musharraf's home on the outskirts of Islamabad, where he has been held under arrest since April, prison official Wajad Ali said. Musharraf is now free to move around Pakistan, Ali said.

However, the former president and army chief is still barred from leaving the country pending multiple court cases against him, his lawyer has said. A court granted Musharraf bail on Monday in a case involving his alleged role in the death of a radical cleric killed during a raid on a hard-line mosque in Islamabad in 2007. That paved the way for his release after the necessary paperwork was completed.

Musharraf, who has been plagued by legal troubles since he returned to Pakistan in March after years of self-imposed exile, already has been granted bail in three other cases against him. The other cases have to do with his alleged role in the murder of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the death of a Baluch separatist leader killed by the army and the detention of Pakistani judges.

Musharraf, a 70-year-old former commando, seized power in a 1999 coup when he was serving as army chief and ruled the country for nearly a decade. He was forced to step down in 2008 in response to increasing pressure from a public unhappy with his rule. Musharraf left the country shortly thereafter.

He returned from exile in March, intending to run in upcoming national elections. But he was immediately ordered detained over the pending cases. He also was barred by a court from running for office for the rest of his life. His political party fared poorly in the May elections.

The images of Musharraf facing justice like any other Pakistani citizen have been stunning in a country where the military has taken power in three coups and wielded enormous power even under civilian governments. Pakistan's army chief advised Musharraf not to return, but he ignored the advice.

For security reasons, he was held at his lavish estate in the suburbs of Islamabad instead of a jail. Pakistani security forces have been protecting the estate following threats by the Taliban.

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