RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
An anticorruption court in Pakistan has sentenced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison on a charge of possessing assets beyond his known sources of income, the latest conviction in a series of graft allegations against him.
The court in Islamabad announced its ruling on December 24 on two corruption charges against Sharif, acquitting him in a second case.
Sharif has denied any wrongdoing and says the charges against him are politically motivated. He can appeal the verdict.
Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison in July over the purchase of luxury apartments in London. Sharif appealed that sentence and was released on bail in September.
After announcing the verdict on December 24, the judge ordered authorities to take Sharif to Adiala prison near Islamabad where he was imprisoned in July.
Sharif was removed from office last year after being disqualified from serving his third stint as prime minister.
Ahead of the verdict, Ahsan Iqbal, a senior leader from Sharif's opposition Pakistan Muslim League party (PMLN) said that "it will be unfortunate" if Sharif is sentenced.
Pakistani media reported that security was tight around the Judicial Complex ahead of the verdict.
Citing the city administration, Geo.tv reported that about 1,000 police officers have been deployed around the court and that all passageways leading to the compound were sealed.
Shortly after Nawaz’s arrival, PMLN supporters hurled stones, pelting police and trying to force their way into the court building.
Police used tear gas to disperse Sharif supporters.
The charges against Sharif stem from a corruption investigation spurred by the Panama Papers leak in 2016.
In Sharif’s latest conviction, the court said he could not prove the source of income for ownership of al-Azizia steel mill in Saudi Arabia.
The court acquitted him in the second case, Flagship Investment in Britain, for lack of evidence.
The conviction comes as the country’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to tackle endemic graft in Pakistan.
Sharif was first expelled from office in 1993 on suspicion of corruption. He won an election in 1997, only to be ousted and exiled after a military coup in 1999.
He returned to Pakistan in 2007 and took power once more in 2013 until his ousting last year.
Sharif’s party lost general elections in July while he was in jail. Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf party that campaigned on an anticorruption platform, won the elections.
With reporting by AP, AFP, BBC, dawn.com, and geo.tv
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