Pakistan defends sedition trial
Government spokesman draws parallel to post-9/11 detentions
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan has slammed the United States for its protest of an opposition leader's trial and 23-year prison sentence for sedition.
Islamabad on Friday retorted by needling the Americans over their own proceedings in cases of national security.
Javed Hashmi was sentenced Monday, after a trial during which journalists were barred, for an arrest in October on charges of defaming the government and the army.
Hashmi is president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League and the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, comprising 15 political parties. He has been one of President Pervez Musharraf's most outspoken critics ever since the military leader ousted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup in October 1999.
His sentencing touched off protests and calls from other opposition leaders for Musharraf to resign.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan issued a statement that "strongly rejected" the U.S. position.
"It was pointed out ... that the U.S. statement is not only unwarranted and misplaced, but is tantamount to interference in the internal affairs and the judicial process of Pakistan," Khan said.
Khan noted that Pakistan has not commented on procedures the United States has adopted "to protect its national security, including detentions as well as trials in [secret], constituting a departure from its own laws and international norms."
The spokesman was referring to trials and detentions -- particularly those detentions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Hashmi's family and lawyer "complained about inadequate access to him to prepare his defense, and lack of transparency in his trial."
"U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed our concerns to Pakistani officials that Mr. Hashmi's case be handled in a fair and transparent manner and with due regard for his rights," Boucher said in a statement.
"We regret the closed nature of the proceedings against him so far and hope that the appeal process will be more open," he said.
Khan said Hashmi's trial was held properly, and that he chose his own attorney and is appealing, as allowed by Pakistani law.
"It is inappropriate for foreign governments to make any comments or prejudge the outcome of the process," he said. "We hope the U.S. will desist from issuing statements on the internal matters and the judicial process of Pakistan."
Hashmi was arrested October 29 after he circulated a letter allegedly written by an army officer opposing the role of the army in national politics. Hashmi released the letter at a news conference inside the parliament building.
CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi contributed to this report.