Science News

Pakistani court upholds curbs on nuclear scientist

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani court upheld the detention of disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan on Monday and barred him from talking to the media about nuclear proliferation while he is under house arrest.

Disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan rests on a hospital bed in Karachi September 10, 2006. REUTERS/Stringer

Khan, lionized 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.

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Sardar Mohammad Aslam ruled Khan could meet relatives after security clearance and have access to health care of his choice, but would not be allowed to give media interviews.

“He will be allowed to meet close relatives subject to security clearance, which is of paramount importance. He will not be allowed to make interviews to any print or television channel on the issue of nuclear proliferation,” the judge said.

Khan gave a series of interviews to media after a new government, made up of anti-Musharraf parties, came to power in late March following a general election in February.

The 72-year-old scientist, who has been treated for prostate cancer, irked the army by making comments earlier this month about the smuggling of nuclear equipment that appeared to implicate the military and President Musharraf.

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.

Musharraf stepped down as army chief late last year, eight years after taking power as a general following a military coup, and has taken a low profile since the formation of the civilian coalition government.

Khan says he had been persuaded to confess four years ago after Musharraf’s government promised that he would be rehabilitated and allowed to travel freely inside Pakistan.

He says Musharraf failed to honor that commitment, and after the new government came to power Khan’s wife petitioned the court to free him.

Pakistan regards the nuclear proliferation case as closed, but U.S. and international nuclear experts investigating proliferation still want to question Khan.

Writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Paul Tait