Ex-Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif sentenced to 7 years for corruption | News | DW | 24.12.2018
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Ex-Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif sentenced to 7 years for corruption

The three-time prime minister was handed a new prison sentence and was acquitted on charges relating to upscale properties in London. Sharif has claimed the charges against him are politically motivated.

An anti-corruption court in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad sentenced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison for corruption on Monday.

The court acquitted him of charges related to the purchase of upscale apartments in London, but found that Sharif was unable to prove the source of income for the ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia.

Sharif, who was released on bail in September after appealing a 10-year sentence, was arrested after the ruling was announced. He can appeal the verdict.

Read more: Sharif's release spells trouble for Pakistani PM Khan

Prosecutors accused Sharif, who served three non-consecutive terms as Pakistan's prime minister, of possessing assets beyond his known sources of income. The allegations stem from a corruption investigation spurred by the Panama Papers revelations in 2016.

"It was an unexpected decision. Sharif has been convicted for the second time and his ordeal continues. The imprisonment, however, may not end Sharif's political legacy but it has almost ended his return to politics. Sharif supporters are unlikely to take to the streets but his party's lawmakers will continue to plead his case in parliament," Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based political analyst, told DW.

'Another black decision'

Thousands of activists from Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party clashed with security forces outside of the courtroom ahead of the decision.

Sharif, who returned to politics in 2013 after spending eight years in exile between 1999 and 2007, has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed he is being targeted by Pakistan's powerful security establishment.

"Sharif's conviction adds insult to injury for a man already banned from politics for life. The verdict will also fuels renewed accusations within the PML-N that Sharif is the victim of a political witch hunt. At the same time, his opponents will hail the verdict as another example of the new accountability being brought to bear on senior politicians," Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, told DW, adding that the verdict would ultimately amplify Pakistan's deep political divides.

Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, wrote on Twitter that the government "is afraid of Nawaz Sharif." 

"How many times will you target one man? How many times will you imprison him and send him to jail?" she said. 

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pakistan's prime minister from August 2017 to May 2018, told DW that Monday's ruling was "another black decision in the history of the country."

"There is no evidence and any witnesses against Nawaz Sharif. Al-Azizia steal mill was established when Nawaz Sahrif was living in exile abroad," Abbasi told Haroon Janjua, DW's correspondent in Islamabad.

"The world is mocking us [for] how courts are giving verdicts in Pakistan. It is the first decision in which sentence was announced with doors locked and security officials holding guns inside the court. It's so-called democracy."

But Fawad Chaudhary, Pakistan's information minister, dubbed it a "historic decision."

"Sharif was unable to prove his money trail to the Supreme Court," Chaudhary told a press conference in Islamabad following the verdict.

Graft history

Last year, Pakistan's Supreme Court expelled Sharif from politics over the allegations, ending his four-year stint as prime minister.

It was not the first time Sharif had been removed from office. He was ousted as prime minister in 1993 on suspicions of corruption. After winning election in 1997, he was removed again after a military coup in 1999 and lived in exile for eight years. 

Sharif received a 10-year sentence in July on charges revolving around family property in London. He was in the British capital at the time of the conviction as his wife received cancer treatment, and was arrested and imprisoned upon his return to Pakistan.

He was released in September after a court suspended his sentence pending an appeal hearing.

Pakistan's current prime minister, Imran Khan, has vowed to tackle endemic corruption in the country since being elected to the post in July.

dv/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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