Pakistan court rejects Sharif family’s bail pleas

A Pakistani court on Tuesday rejected appeals of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt. (retd) Mohammad Safdar for bail and suspension of their convictions in a corruption reference. (TOLGA AKMEN/AFP)
Updated 17 July 2018
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Pakistan court rejects Sharif family’s bail pleas

  • Court adjourned hearing into the case until end of July, seeking complete record of trial against Sharif family
  • Ex-premier’s close aide, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, still expects the high court will set aside the convictions

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Tuesday rejected appeals of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt. (retd) Mohammad Safdar for bail and suspension of their convictions in a corruption reference.
A divisional bench of Islamabad High Court has taken up the Sharif family’s appeals against an accountability court verdict in Avenfield properties reference and later adjourned the hearing until the last week of July.
The two-member bench comprising Justices Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb, however, issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor and investigator to present a complete record of the trial in the court at the time of the next hearing.
The ex-premier, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar are currently in jail after the accountability court in Islamabad on July 6 sentenced Nawaz and Maryam in absentia to 10 years and seven years respectively with a $8 million and $2 million fine respectively on corruption charges.
Safdar was given a one-year sentence without any fine.
The Islamabad High Court has now summoned a NAB prosecutor and investigation officer on the next hearing to record their arguments on the Sharif family’s appeals seeking bail and suspension of the accountability court verdict.
The court was packed to its capacity when hearing into the appeals started in the afternoon. Scores of supporters and leaders of the ex-premier have turned up in the court to observe the hearing into the appeals.
Lawyers of the convicts highlighted legal lacunae in the accountability court verdict during the hearing and urged the court to suspend the imprisonment sentences of their clients until a final decision of the Islamabad High Court.
Khawaja Harris, legal counsel of Nawaz Sharif, argued that it was a case of having assets beyond known sources of income but the NAB prosecutor and investigator failed to provide valuation of the Avenfield properties during the trial.
He said the accountability court verdict is also based on presumptions that Nawaz Sharif’s children were dependent on him and had no monetary resources to buy the London flats. He said the prosecution also failed to prove this assumption during the trial.
Likewise, Amjad Pervez, legal counsel of Maryam and Safdar, also highlighted flaws in the accountability court’s verdict and urged the court to set aside the ruling.
The court also dismissed the Sharif family’s request to stay corruption trial in remaining two references in the accountability court till their appeals are decided.
Talking to the media outside the court, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, a close aide of Nawaz Sharif, said the people expect the high court to decide on the appeals at the same speed with which corruption proceedings were conducted against the Sharif family in the accountability court.
“We expect justice from the court,” he said. “We hope the high court will declare the convictions of Nawaz Sharif and his family void after hearing the arguments of our lawyers.”
On July 13, both Nawaz and Maryam were arrested at Lahore airport on their arrival from London and sent to Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, to serve their sentence.
The two leaders were in London at the time of the verdict with Nawaz’s wife and Maryam’s mother Kulsoom Nawaz, who is battling cancer. She has reportedly been on life support since June 14.
Earlier, Shahbaz Sharif, younger brother of Nawaz Sharif and ex-chief minister Punjab province, has written a letter to the caretaker chief minister to complain about “abysmal conditions” under which the ex-premier was languishing in a high-security Adiala jail.
He demanded the government provide all basic facilities, including access to a personal doctor and air-conditioning, to Nawaz Sharif.
“It is very unfortunate that Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, three-time prime minister of Pakistan, is being treated in such a shabby manner,” the letter available to Arab News reads.


Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

Updated 20 February 2019
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Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

  • The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians
  • EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news"

BUDAPEST: Hungary launched a new anti-immigration media campaign on Tuesday in which it accused George Soros and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker of allegedly supporting illegal migration, but which Brussels immediately dismissed as "fake news".
According to the Hungarian government's Facebook page, the media blitz — funded with taxpayers' money — is expected to include billboard posters featuring images of the liberal US billionaire Soros and a smiling Juncker above the words: "You too have a right to know what Brussels is preparing".
"They want to bring in the mandatory settlement quota; weaken member states' rights to border defence; facilitate immigration with a migrant visa," it continues.
The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians, including from Joseph Daul, president of the European People's Party grouping which includes both Juncker and right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party.
In a series of tweets, Daul condemned the campaign, calling its claims "deceitful, misleading and... not based on facts".
Daul denounced Hungary's attacks on Juncker and defended him as a "true Christian Democrat and a real European leader".
He went on to remind Hungary that "decisions in Brussels, including on migration, are taken collectively by EU governments" and the European Parliament, both of which include Hungarian representatives.
The presence of Fidesz within the EPP has long been a source of controversy but there have been no official moves by any of the other centre-right parties in the grouping to expel it.
Orban's government, which has frequently clashed with the EU on migration, has regularly undertaken similar campaigns in the past, including "Let's Stop Brussels" and "Don't let Soros have the last laugh."
In recent years, Orban has blasted the Hungarian-born 88-year-old philanthropist and investor as a "public enemy" for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.
At the same time, Orban's government has frequently been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its campaigns against Soros, claims it denies.
In recent months, pro-Orban media have also attacked Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini — the author of a critical report about Hungary that formed the basis of EU legal action against Budapest -- and Juncker's deputy Frans Timmermans.
"Brussels continues to want to support illegal immigration," Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, told reporters in Budapest on Tuesday.
"Hungarians need to know about this, that's why the latest information campaign has been launched," he said, denying it is part of the upcoming European Parliament election campaign.
Kovacs said plans in "drawers in Brussels" included hikes in financial funding of NGOs and the creation of a special migration fund.
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news".
"The Hungary government campaign beggars belief," he told a briefing in Brussels.
"It is shocking that such a ludicrous conspiracy theory has reached the mainstream to the extent it has. There is no conspiracy. Hungarians deserve facts, not fiction," he said.