World News

Pakistan nuclear secrets scientist to go free

Pakistan nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan waves to journalists from the front door of his house in Islamabad August 28, 2009. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani judge ruled on Friday that nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan should be allowed freedom of movement more than five years after being put under house arrest for his role in a nuclear proliferation scandal.

Khan had lodged an appeal with the Lahore High Court as the authorities had confined him to his home despite a court order lifting his house arrest last February.

“Justice Ijaz Chaudhry, after hearing the argument, directed the government that it will not restrain Dr. A Q. Khan in any manner,” Khan’s lawyer, Ali Zafar, said in a statement.

Khan was pardoned but placed under house arrest in 2004 by then president Pervez Musharraf after the scientist confessed on television to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Musharraf had been forced to act against Khan after being confronted by the United States with evidence of the scientist’s role in a nuclear black market.

After a new government came to power last year, Khan gave a series of media interviews in which he recanted his 2004 confession, saying he only took the blame in return for assurances from Musharraf.

The court fixed another hearing for September 4 to address the question of whether government officials were in contempt of court for ignoring the February ruling.

Khan is still lionized as the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb and there is widespread belief that he was the fall guy for a larger conspiracy to smuggle nuclear technology.

Pakistani authorities denied any connection to Khan’s smuggling ring but never let foreign investigators question him.

Reporting by Augustine Anthony; Editing by Nick Macfie