Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s political party has censured as “ridiculous” a local court verdict that handed him a three-year jail sentence over corruption allegations.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party announced on Sunday that an appeal had been filed in the higher courts against the ruling, which also barred Khan from politics for five years.
Babar Awan, a member of the PTI and part of Khan’s legal team, said the ruling was a “ridiculous verdict by a sham court.”
“Imran Khan was not given a fair trial, which according to the country’s constitution is the right of every citizen.”
Awan underlined that there was “every likelihood of suspension of the verdict and early release of Imran Khan” following their appeal to the high court as the former premier was not present in court for the hearing.
Pakistani law does not provide for the possibility of holding trials in absentia, under which the 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was charged.
Police officers swooped in on Khan’s home in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday and arrested him after a court in Islamabad found him guilty of “corrupt practices” involving the sale of state gifts and sentenced him to three years in jail.
Back in May, Khan was arrested and briefly detained in Islamabad for the same case, which sparked deadly protests across Pakistan.
Should the appeal be unsuccessful, the ruling would only allow Khan to return to politics after five years. However, the case is one of nearly 150 charges Khan is facing in courts, which include charges of corruption and attempted murder.
The former Pakistani prime minister has on numerous occasions said the cases are politically motivated, aimed at preventing him from running for elections due to be held by mid-November.
Khan’s lawyers cannot reach him in jail
Meanwhile, Naeem Haider Panjotha, Khan’s spokesperson for legal affairs, said his lawyers could not reach him on Sunday after he spent the night in a high-security jail near the capital following his arrest the previous day.
“Attock prison is a ‘No Go’ area for (his) legal team as well as locals in the vicinity,” Panjotha said, adding they were unable to take him food or arrange the signing of legal documents.
Pakistan’s information minister reportedly referred a request for comment on Khan’s access to his lawyers to provincial authorities in Punjab, where the jail is located. Punjab’s top information official could not immediately be reached for comment.