Imran Khan has been arrested and sentenced to three years in prison after a court convicted him in a corruption case that he claims is politically motivated.
Police swooped in on the former international cricket star’s home in Lahore on Saturday, shortly after a court convicted him of illegally selling official gifts while he was prime minister.
Anyone convicted of a criminal offence is usually disqualified from contesting elections or holding office in Pakistan, scuppering Khan’s hopes of participating in Pakistan’s next election that has to be held before early November.
“His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” judge Humayun Dilawar wrote in a court ruling seen by the Telegraph.
“He has been found guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he accrued from [the] national exchequer wilfully and intentionally.”
After his arrest, Khan was flown by helicopter to Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail, and was expected to be imprisoned in the central jail in Adyala, Rawalpindi, a court order said.
The conviction came just a day after Pakistan’s high court temporarily halted the district court trial. It was not immediately clear why the trial had proceeded despite the high court decision.
Marriyum Aurangzeb, the information minister, said in a statement that Khan’s arrest followed a full investigation and proper legal proceedings in a trial court. She said his arrest was unrelated to the upcoming elections.
“A thief has been arrested today,” she told reporters on Saturday. “Any negotiations with the thief will be difficult now because he will be in jail.”
Khan was previously arrested in connection with the same corruption case in May, sparking widespread protests and violent clashes between his supporters and Pakistan’s security forces.
In a pre-recorded message, released in the aftermath of his arrest, Khan, 70, urged his supporters to demonstrate peacefully.
“My fellow Pakistanis, they will have arrested me and I’ll be in jail by the time this message reaches you. I have just one request and appeal, that you are not to sit silently at home,” he said.
“This is a war for justice, for your rights, for your freedom … chains don’t just fall off, they have to be broken. You must continue peaceful protest until you get your rights.”
On Saturday, several other senior figures in Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party were also reportedly detained.
A party spokesman said that Khan’s lawyers are appealing to the Lahore High Court against the “unlawful arrest, rather, abduction”.
Khan was forced out of power in April last year in a vote of no confidence, but his popularity has soared since he was kicked out.
The former prime minister has denied any wrongdoing in the long-running corruption case.
Since he was ousted, Khan has frequently drawn attention to the political power wielded by Pakistan’s military – a taboo subject in the country.
After he was shot several times in the leg while marching on the capital to call for early elections last year, he claimed his political rivals in government were conspiring with the army to have him killed or jailed.
The government denies his claims and says they are intended to energise his devoted supporters.
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