Thursday, June 13, 2024

Pakistan high court suspends ex-premier Imran Khan conviction

The Pakistani high court has suspended the former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent conviction on corruption charges, his lawyer said on Tuesday. It is unclear whether the order will lead to his release from jail.

The 70-year-old former cricketer has been at the centre of political turmoil in the crisis-ridden state since his ouster in a parliamentary vote of confidence in April 2022, and his relations with Pakistan’s powerful generals have deteriorated over the past year.

Khan was imprisoned on 5 August after being sentenced to three years for unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018-22. As a result of the conviction, and with a national election expected in the coming months, Pakistan’s election commission barred him from contesting elections for five years.

“The sentence has been suspended,” Naeem Panjutha, his lawyer, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding: “God be praised.”

Khan’s legal team lodged the appeal on the grounds that he was convicted without being given the right to defend himself.

The court had ordered Khan’s release on bail, another of his lawyers, Shoaib Shaheen, told reporters outside the court. But it remains uncertain whether he will be freed as there are court orders for his arrest in other cases.

Khan faces dozens of cases, including charges of abetment to murder, leaking state secrets and orchestrating violent protests. He has already been arrested in connection with another case, on charges of leaking state secrets and compromising national security.

It is unclear how the ban on contesting elections will be affected with the suspension of his sentence. National elections are due this year but likely to be delayed several months.

The suspension marks another win for Khan and comes a day after the Balochistan high court dismissed sedition charges against him, saying they had been filed improperly.

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