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Imran Khan: Pakistan court suspends jail sentence in graft appeal

A Pakistani court granted former Prime Minister Imran Khan an appeal of his graft conviction and suspended his 14-year jail sentence, his lawyer said, a relief for his embattled party which had won most seats in February’s national polls.

Just a week ahead of the February 8 elections, Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were both handed a 14-year sentence on charges of unlawfully selling state gifts by an anti-graft court.

Despite the suspension, Khan will remain in jail on multiple other sentences which were imposed on the ex-cricket star ahead of the polls, which also disqualified him from holding any public office for 10 years.

Islamabad High Court said that the couple’s graft sentence will remain suspended until a final decision on the conviction which will be taken up for arguments and evidence as a main petition after the Eid holidays, said the lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar.

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“No evidence backs up this conviction,” he told reporters outside the court in Islamabad, saying that was why the court suspended the sentence on the first hearing of the appeal.

Khan and his wife were charged with illegally selling gifts, worth more than 140 million rupees ($500,000) and received during his 2018-2022 premiership, from a state treasury known locally known as the “Toshakhana”.

A list of these gifts shared by a former information minister included perfumes, diamond jewellery, dinner sets and seven watches, six of them Rolexes – the most expensive being a “Master Graff limited edition” valued at 85 million rupees ($304,000).

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Khan was also handed a three-year prison sentence in August for the same charge by another court, but that sentence had been suspended on appeal.

Khan and his party say the legal cases against him were based on made-up charges to keep him out of politics at the behest of the country’s powerful army after he had fallen out with the military’s generals. The army denies the accusation.

The military has directly ruled Pakistan for half of its history since its independence from British rule in 1947. The military holds an oversized role in making or breaking governments in the nation of 241 million people.

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By ASIF SHAHZAD

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