Pakistan court gives 10-year jail to Sharif in 1st corruption case

Nawaz and Maryam outside the court premises this year

The National Accountability Bureau today sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and fined him eight million pounds in the Avenfield corruption case linked to the high-profile Panama Papers scandal. She called on the nation to stand with her father who had faced similar situations in the past and remained steadfast.

The verdict, a potentially significant boost for the main opposition party led by former World Cup cricketer Imran Khan, immediately raised questions over whether Sharif will return to Pakistan from London, where his wife is receiving cancer treatment.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan.

He also claimed, "There is no doubt that Maryam Nawaz forged signature in the Panama Papers case".

But in the ruling that ousted Mr. Sharif from office previous year, the Supreme Court concluded that he and his family members could not adequately explain how they were able to afford the expensive London apartments and that they failed to provide a money trail.

Nawaz Sharif and his daughter were in those apartments as they listened to the verdict.

Sharif has previously described the court proceedings against him as politically motivated and a judicial witchhunt.

"Justice has been massacred", Maryam's husband Safdar said after the verdict.

Judge Mohammad Bashir concluded in his written statement that Sharif and his family had failed to disclose the source of funds they used to purchases luxurious London properties and did not report the purchases to tax authorities. Earlier, he had rejected the application of the Sharif family seeking a seven-day postponement in announcement of the verdict. Dar was also indicted, but he fled to London citing health issues and medical reasons. The two sons never appeared before the court and were declared as absconders.

The exhaustive accountability court trial has held 107 hearings in a span of nine months, most of which Sharif, Nawaz, and Awan attended.

"Decisions of court should be accepted by all; they should not be based the concept of pick and choose", he said. A Joint Investigation Team, constituted by a three-member Apex court bench to probe and prosecute the accused, produced 18 witnesses who were cross-examined by the defense counsel. "I want to hear the verdict in the court room where I have presented myself with my daughter over 100 times".

"No matter what the PML-N says, the decision is going to damage their vote bank", analyst Rifaat Hussain told AFP, adding that he thought it unlikely Sharif would return.

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