26.06.2024

Pakistan’s former premier appeals his conviction and 3-year sentence in graft case, seeks release

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday appealed his conviction and three-year prison sentence in a graft case, a spokesman for his legal team said.

Naeem Haider Panjutha, Khan’s lawyer, said the Islamabad High Court will hear the appeal on Wednesday.

It’s the latest turn in Khan’s legal drama after being ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022. He remains the country’s leading opposition figure and was convicted and jailed Saturday on charges of concealing assets after selling state gifts he received while in power. Panjutha met with Khan in the high-security Attock jail in eastern Punjab province.

The former cricket star has denied the charges, saying he did not violate any laws.

In the appeal, Khan’s lawyers said the former premier’s conviction should be “set aside” and declared “illegal and without lawful authority.” It also requested the court acquit Khan, claiming he was arrested illegally.

Panjutha told reporters outside the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday that they are also seeking better facilities for Khan through another petition which has also been filed in the Islamabad High Court.

Since Khan’s conviction, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Inaf party and critics have said the former premier was being politically victimized by the government of current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, a charge the government denies. Sharif replaced Khan last year after his ouster and is likely to step down on Wednesday after the five-year term of the current parliament.

Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party will face tough competition from Khan’s party.

However, it remains unclear whether Khan will be able to contest elections. Under Pakistan’s laws, no convicted person is eligible to lead his party or contest elections, or hold any public office. But if Khan’s conviction is overturned by the Islamabad High Court, he will be allowed to contest the upcoming vote.

On Monday, Panjutha told reporters that the former premier was in good spirits and maintaining “a high morale” despite the harsh conditions at the Attock jail. The prison was established in 1905 during British colonial rule, which ended in 1947 when Pakistan and neighboring India became independent.

The jail is known for holding convicted militants and the most hardcore criminals during trial proceedings. Panjutha has said Khan is being held in a “small room at the prison where there is no air conditioner and where there are flies in daytime and insects at night.”

Khan’s legal team has also approached another court in Islamabad to seek better facilities for Khan.

Khan was previously arrested in May on corruption charges, triggering a wave of violent protests that swept the country. Days later, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered his release, saying his arrest was illegal.

Since his sentencing Saturday, Khan has renewed his call for mass protests, but has failed to gain traction among his supporters. Khan has claimed that his ouster from power was a conspiracy by Washington, the government of his successor, Sharif, and the Pakistani military — accusations that all three deny.

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