An anti-corruption court in Pakistan sentenced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
Sharif, 68, was present inside the courtroom in Islamabad and was arrested shortly after the judge announced the verdict on two corruption cases against him.
The ruling noted that the three-time ex-prime minister failed to disclose the source of income for establishing a steel mill in Saudi Arabia. But the accountability court acquitted Sharif in the second case, citing a lack of “enough” evidence. He was additionally punished by a fine of about $25 million and disqualified from politics for 10 years.
Sharif is accused of building foreign assets while in power. He again denied any wrongdoing before appearing in the court Monday.
“I have done nothing that would force me to bow my head and have always served the country and this nation with absolute honesty,” the former prime minister said.
Scores of party workers and activists were also present outside the judicial complex in the Pakistani capital and they briefly clashed with police. Sharif’s opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party denounced the judgement and vowed to challenge it in a higher court.
Senior PML-N leader, former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, told reporters outside the court that the verdict will not be acceptable to the people of Pakistan because “they have punished him in a false case.”
Sharif was serving his third stint as prime minister when the Supreme Court ousted him from office in July 2017 for not declaring in election nomination papers a salary he was receiving from a foreign-based company owned by his son.
Separately, Sharif was sentenced to 11 years in prison last July by the same accountability court in connection with expensive apartments his family owned in London. He was released on bail in September pending an appeal after a court suspended his punishment.
Sharif’s daughter, political heir Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law, Mohammad Safdar, were also convicted in the case and freed on bail. Sharif’s two sons, residing in Britain, were declared absconders by the court for failing to appear in the trial.
Details of Sharif and his family’s foreign properties were contained in the so-called Panama Papers, financial documents made public in 2015 that show how the world’s richest hide their money.
In a series of tweets, Sharif’s daughter Maryam, again in a veiled reference to the powerful military institution, said Monday her father is being punished for resisting “unseen forces.” (VOA)