Pakistani court bans police from arresting ex-PM Khan

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ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani court on Thursday extended former prime minister Imran Khan’s protection from arrest until the end of the month, officials said, after police filed terrorism charges against the leader. popular opposition in the country.

The court shielded Khan from arrest until September 1 on charges that during a speech over the weekend he threatened police officers and a female judge. Developments before Khan’s receivership had raised fears of violent clashes between police and Khan, who is leading mass rallies and seeking a snap election after being ousted. The government says elections will take place as scheduled next year.

On Thursday, Khan told reporters outside court that he had never threatened anyone.

He said the terrorism charges against him were politically motivated and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government feared Khan’s growing popularity.

“You are making fun of Pakistan,” Khan said of Sharif’s government.

Khan later traveled to another court where a criminal case was registered against him this week for defying a ban on holding rallies in the capital, Islamabad. He was also protected from arrest in this case until September 7.

Earlier, Khan’s lawyer asked the terrorism court to shield Khan from arrest. Babar Awan said the terrorism charges filed against Khan were “an act of revenge”.

Arriving in court, Khan was instructed to walk into the courtroom as ordinary suspects do.

Hundreds of Khan supporters gathered outside the courthouse, chanting slogans against Sharif’s government. Protesters said Khan was being politically persecuted by Sharif’s government. Later, Khan left the court for his home on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Sharif replaced Khan in April when he was ousted in a vote of no confidence in parliament. Khan could face anywhere from several months to 14 years in prison, the equivalent of a life sentence, if he is found guilty by the court in the trial which has not yet started against him, according to legal experts. for terrorism.

Khan’s appearance in a terrorism court on Thursday amid tight security was the latest development in the saga between the Pakistani government and Khan, who has held mass rallies, seeking to return to power.

Khan is also due to appear in the High Court in Islamabad on August 31 to face contempt proceedings for threatening a judge. His conviction, in this case, will mean his lifelong political disqualification under Pakistani law. No convicted person can stand for election.

It is the second time Khan – a former cricket star turned Islamist politician – has faced contempt charges. After the 1993 elections, he was summoned but pardoned by the Supreme Court after calling the conduct of the judiciary “shameful” and saying it did not guarantee free and fair elections.

Legal experts say Khan has limited options and could avoid a conviction if he apologizes for his remarks against Judge Zeba Chaudhry, when he told her to “be prepared, we will also take action against you”.

Khan made the critical comment against Judge Chaudhry after allowing police to question Gill, who is Khan’s party chief of staff. Gill was arrested earlier this month for allegedly trying to incite soldiers to revolt against senior military leaders. Gill was sent to jail the day before, awaiting trial.

Since his ousting, Khan has alleged – without providing evidence – that Pakistan’s powerful military was part of a US plot to oust him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the government of Khan’s successor, Shahbaz Sharif, have all denied the allegation.

Khan came to power promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan. His opponents argue he was elected with the help of the mighty military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history. Since his ouster, Khan has also demanded a snap election and pledged to overthrow Sharif’s government through “pressure from the people”.

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