Sharif To Appeal Life Sentence Verdict

July 7, 2008 - 8:08 PM

New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - Deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was found guilty Thursday of hijacking and terrorism, crimes for which he received a sentence of life in prison instead of the death penalty.

Sharif was also acquitted of abduction and attempted murder. Six co-accused were acquitted on all counts.

"The court has found accused Mian Nawaz Sharif guilty of hijacking and sentences him to life imprisonment," Judge Rehmat Hussain Jafri told a packed Karachi anti-terrorism court.

Sharif was also found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to another life term, Jafri added.

A life sentence in Pakistan means a jail term of 25 years. The two sentences will run concurrently.

The court also ordered confiscation of all Sharif's property, imposed a $10,000 fine, and directed him to pay $38,000 in compensation to the 198 passengers on board a civilian plane he attempted to prevent from landing last October 12.

Sharif had refused to allow a civilian plane carrying General Pervez Musharraf - whom he had just sacked as army chief - to land in Karachi, diverting it instead to another city, Nawabshah.

With its fuel running dangerously low, the plane eventually was allowed to land only after troops loyal to Musharraf seized control of the airport. The military seized power several hours later.

Among the 198 people onboard were 60 children from schools attended by children of U.S. diplomats stationed in Pakistan.

Both the defense and prosecution said they would appeal the verdict.

"We will go to the high court," said Mansoor Malik, one of Sharif's lawyers.
"We feel we have a very good case to fight because the other accused were all acquitted on the same charges.

"The principal accused has a very good case in appeal within seven days. I am very hopeful that this judgment will not stand in the appellate court and would be set aside."

Chief public prosecutor Raja Qureshi, who had demanded the death penalty for Sharif and his co-defendants, said he would appeal both the acquittals and Sharif's sentence.

The other defendants in the case were Sharif's brother Shahbaz, the ex-premier's former advisor Syed Ghaus Ali Shah, former chairman of the national airline Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, state police head Rana Maqbool, and two other senior government officials, Saifur Rahman and Saeed Mehdi.

A spokesman for the military government, Javed Jabbar, told reporters: "This has been possibly the most transparent trial in the history of the country."

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent watchdog group that monitored the trial, said: "Overall, it was a fair trial."

But political analyst Sherry Rehman, who met Sharif soon after the verdict was announced, quoted him as saying there was "no justice in Pakistan."

"It is up to Allah to decide the future," she quoted Sharif as saying.

When the verdict and sentence was announced, family members in the courtroom, who had been reading the Koran, leapt from their seats shouting: "Long live Nawaz Sharif!"

Several women openly wept, while others beat their chests.

"My husband is innocent and he has not committed any crime," Kulsoom Sharif said.

The court allowed the Sharif family members and close associates to meet him for two hours before he was sentenced.

"It was a foregone conclusion that Sharif would not get a death penalty and instead be let off with a life term," commented political analyst Dr Mubhashir Hassan.

"But what strikes political observers as surprising is that his six colleagues were allowed to go scot-free, especially because they were all accused of the same charges as Sharif himself. In Pakistan, hijacking is a crime that can only be punished by death."

An Indian analyst, former foreign secretary S.K. Singh, told CNSNews.com that by handing down a life sentence Pakistan has avoided international wrath.

"Given Pakistan's bad shape of economy and political situation, Islamabad could not have resisted international criticism by awarding the death penalty to Sharif," he said.

Outside the court, thousands of paramilitary troops and police were on high alert throughout the port city of Karachi in case of a violent reaction to the verdict.

In Rawalpindi, close to the capital of Islamabad, a group of about 40 protesters defied a government ban on demonstrations and hurled abuse at Musharraf.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League has not so far called for any public protest against the verdict.

The Karachi Stock Exchange climbed 15 points immediately after the verdict was announced.

Sharif is Pakistan's third Prime Minister to be convicted of a crime. The country's first elected premier, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 for murder. His daughter, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was awarded a five-year jail term in her absence on corruption charges last year.
Sharif To Appeal Life Sentence Verdict

By Suryamurthy Ramachandran
CNS Correspondent

New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - Deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was found guilty Thursday of hijacking and terrorism, crimes for which he received a sentence of life in prison instead of the death penalty.

Sharif was also acquitted of abduction and attempted murder. Six co-accused were acquitted on all counts.

"The court has found accused Mian Nawaz Sharif guilty of hijacking and sentences him to life imprisonment," Judge Rehmat Hussain Jafri told a packed Karachi anti-terrorism court.

Sharif was also found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to another life term, Jafri added.

A life sentence in Pakistan means a jail term of 25 years. The two sentences will run concurrently.

The court also ordered confiscation of all Sharif's property, imposed a $10,000 fine, and directed him to pay $38,000 in compensation to the 198 passengers on board a civilian plane he attempted to prevent from landing last October 12.

Sharif had refused to allow a civilian plane carrying General Pervez Musharraf - whom he had just sacked as army chief - to land in Karachi, diverting it instead to another city, Nawabshah.

With its fuel running dangerously low, the plane eventually was allowed to land only after troops loyal to Musharraf seized control of the airport. The military seized power several hours later.

Among the 198 people onboard were 60 children from schools attended by children of U.S. diplomats stationed in Pakistan.

Both the defense and prosecution said they would appeal the verdict.

"We will go to the high court," said Mansoor Malik, one of Sharif's lawyers.
"We feel we have a very good case to fight because the other accused were all acquitted on the same charges.

"The principal accused has a very good case in appeal within seven days. I am very hopeful that this judgment will not stand in the appellate court and would be set aside."

Chief public prosecutor Raja Qureshi, who had demanded the death penalty for Sharif and his co-defendants, said he would appeal both the acquittals and Sharif's sentence.

The other defendants in the case were Sharif's brother Shahbaz, the ex-premier's former advisor Syed Ghaus Ali Shah, former chairman of the national airline Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, state police head Rana Maqbool, and two other senior government officials, Saifur Rahman and Saeed Mehdi.

A spokesman for the military government, Javed Jabbar, told reporters: "This has been possibly the most transparent trial in the history of the country."

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent watchdog group that monitored the trial, said: "Overall, it was a fair trial."

But political analyst Sherry Rehman, who met Sharif soon after the verdict was announced, quoted him as saying there was "no justice in Pakistan."

"It is up to Allah to decide the future," she quoted Sharif as saying.

When the verdict and sentence was announced, family members in the courtroom, who had been reading the Koran, leapt from their seats shouting: "Long live Nawaz Sharif!"

Several women openly wept, while others beat their chests.

"My husband is innocent and he has not committed any crime," Kulsoom Sharif said.

The court allowed the Sharif family members and close associates to meet him for two hours before he was sentenced.

"It was a foregone conclusion that Sharif would not get a death penalty and instead be let off with a life term," commented political analyst Dr Mubhashir Hassan.

"But what strikes political observers as surprising is that his six colleagues were allowed to go scot-free, especially because they were all accused of the same charges as Sharif himself. In Pakistan, hijacking is a crime that can only be punished by death."

An Indian analyst, former foreign secretary S.K. Singh, told CNSNews.com that by handing down a life sentence Pakistan has avoided international wrath.

"Given Pakistan's bad shape of economy and political situation, Islamabad could not have resisted international criticism by awarding the death penalty to Sharif," he said.

Outside the court, thousands of paramilitary troops and police were on high alert throughout the port city of Karachi in case of a violent reaction to the verdict.

In Rawalpindi, close to the capital of Islamabad, a group of about 40 protesters defied a government ban on demonstrations and hurled abuse at Musharraf.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League has not so far called for any public protest against the verdict.

The Karachi Stock Exchange climbed 15 points immediately after the verdict was announced.

Sharif is Pakistan's third Prime Minister to be convicted of a crime. The country's first elected premier, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 for murder. His daughter, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was awarded a five-year jail term in her absence on corruption charges last year.