Pakistan lawyer says given holiday detention leave

( AFP ) - A firebrand Pakistan lawyer who has helped galvanise opposition to President Pervez Musharraf said he had been given three-day leave from detention for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.

Aitzaz Ahsan, head of the Supreme Court bar association, has been held since last month, when Musharraf imposed a state of emergency that saw a purge of anti-Musharraf judges.

"We are ready to face batons, bullets and bombs," he told AFP by telephone from Lahore. "Our movement and struggle will continue and there will be no let up till the restoration of judges and the judiciary," he said.

Ahsan is under house arrest and in fact confined to only his bedroom. Authorities have officially declared his residence a sub-jail.

Lawyers and judges have been at the centre of months of political turmoil in Pakistan since Musharraf suspended the Supreme Court's then chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in March, setting off nationwide protests.

Ahsan was crucial in the legal battle that got Chaudhry's suspension overturned. But after the state of emergency was imposed, Chaudhry was sacked and himself remains under house arrest.

Musharraf lifted the emergency last week but dozens of lawyers and judges are still in detention, and the president has vowed they will not be given back their jobs.

Ahsan said lawyers and judges across Pakistan were "determined and united and ready to make extreme sacrifices" in their fight. "The people of Pakistan are with us."

New York based Human Rights Watch Wednesday said that free and fair elections were not possible in Pakistan next month following the dismantling of an independent judiciary and a crackdown on Musharraf critics.

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