Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been sentenced to death in absentia for high treason after a prolonged and contentious legal case.

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled Pakistan until 2008. 

Musharraf was convicted on Tuesday by a special three-person court in Islamabad of violating the constitution by unlawfully declaring emergency rule while he was in power. His case had been ongoing since 2013. 

The death sentence was voted for by a 2-1 margin with one member of the court voting to convict the former general and president, but not voting for the death penalty. This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that an army chief has been tried and found guilty of treason. Under the constitution, high treason is a crime that carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The military, however, reacted strongly against the verdict by releasing a statement that the legal process “seems to have been ignored.” The court’s ruling has been “received with a lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of the Pakistan Armed Forces,” he continued.

“An ex-Army Chief, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defense of the country can surely never be a traitor,” a statement said.

Coincidentally, the treason charges brought against Musharraf in 2013 were initiated by the man he deposed in 1999, Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf argued that the case against him was politically motivated and that his actions in 2007 were approved by the government and cabinet. But his arguments were turned down by the courts and he was accused of acting illegally.

Back in 2007, he imposed emergency measures that would have kept him in power. This move sparked widespread protests. He came under more fire in December 2007 after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf was allegedly part of the conspiracy to have Bhutto killed before the elections. He has always denied those charges.