Fri, Sep 21, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Sharif freed after court suspends prison sentence


Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law were released from prison on Wednesday after a court suspended their sentences and granted them bail pending their appeal hearings.

The Islamabad High Court made the decision after the trio petitioned to appeal their sentences, which were handed down by an anti-graft tribunal earlier this year in a corruption case.

The three were released from a prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The development is the latest twist in a series of scandals involving the former prime minister, beginning with his ouster from office last year, to several corruption cases and trials he still faces.

When the anti-graft tribunal first convicted and sentenced Sharif on July 6, he was in London with his daughter, visiting his critically ill wife.

The father and daughter returned home a week later and were taken to prison to serve their sentences.

Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League, lost in parliamentary elections later in July and has now taken on the mantle of opposition party to new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In Wednesday’s decision, the two-judge panel headed by Justice Athar Minallah ordered that Sharif, his daughter, Maryam Safdar, and son-in-law, Mohammad Safdar, be released once they each post a bond of 0.5 million rupees, or about US$4,000.

In the evening, the three were released from the prison, where many party leaders and a large crowd of supporters gathered to receive them, said Pakistani Senator Mushahidullah Khan, a close aide to Sharif.

Mushahidullah Khan said Sharif and relatives were escorted to the airport amid tight security. From there, they were to fly to the eastern city of Lahore.

Mushahidullah Khan said Sharif and his daughter mourned the loss of Kulsoom Nawaz, Sharif’s wife, who died after a long battle with cancer while they were in prison.

“I thought I would go straight to mother, but she is no more,” he quoted Maryam Safdar as saying.

Television footage showed a security vehicle driving the three through a massive crowd of supporters, some showering rose petals on the vehicle, while others waved party flags and chanted slogans.

Later, they arrived at the family’s estate in the Lahore suburbs to a warm reception by supporters.

Sharif was temporarily released earlier this month to attend his wife’s funeral.

Prosecutors in the case, the Pakistani National Accountability Bureau, said they would appeal the ruling and take the case against Sharif to the Pakistani Supreme Court.

Following the judges’ decision on Sharif and his family, supporters rushed to the court in jubilation, chanting pro-Sharif slogans, and waving banners and posters of the former prime minister.

“This is a triumph of justice,” said Sharif ally and former Pakistani minister of foreign affairs Khawaja Asif outside the court.

Another supporter in the crowd, Naveed Abbasi, said he is convinced Sharif was a victim of conspiracy, but that “God willing, the people will make Nawaz Sharif the prime minister again ... for a record fourth time.”

Amjad Pervez, a defense lawyer, had said the required bonds had been posted and Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law would be released from Adiala prison, where they have been serving 10-year, seven-year and one-year prison sentences respectively.

In July last year, the Pakistani Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from office over corruption allegations.

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