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.


Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

Updated 25 min 42 sec ago
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Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

  • Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately
  • Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations.

Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately. Others continued toward Central, a key business and retail district and the site of the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-ins.

Large protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the bill. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in city.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of 'one country, two systems.' Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday’s march from a public park, carrying a large banner that read 'Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.' 'Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!' the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.

“I think the government has never responded to our demands,” said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since last month. “No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly.”

Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march’s organizers. Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month.

Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a 'riot' and dissolving the Legislative Council.                   

Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday. “We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies,” they said, “but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people.”

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building.

Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.