Pakistani court dismisses former PM Nawaz Sharif's appeal against convictions in 2 corruption cases

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Islamabad, Jun 24 (PTI) A top Pakistani court on Thursday dismissed appeals by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif against his conviction in two corruption cases by an accountability court, as it described him as a 'fugitive from law'.

'There is nothing in the Constitution or the Rules to compel the court to decide on merits an appeal filed by an accused person who has chosen to be fugitive from justice and while remaining so decides to disobey or frustrate the orders, directions and process of the court from which he seeks justice,' the Islamabad High Court bench said.

A bench comprising Justices Aamer Farooq and Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, in its nine-page judgement, said Sharif was a 'fugitive from law hence has lost his right of audience before this court and we are left with no choice except to dismiss his appeal'.

However, the court stated that Sharif can appeal for reinstatement of his pleas on return to the country.

Sharif, 70, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) supremo, has been living in London since November 2019 after the Lahore High Court granted him permission to go abroad for four weeks for treatment.

The three-time former prime minister -- convicted in two corruption cases Avenfield properties and Al-Azizia Steel Mills -- was declared a proclaimed offender in December 2019 by the Islamabad High Court after he failed to appear before it despite several warnings.

Sharif, who resigned as Pakistan prime minister in 2017, had sought quashing of the sentences handed to him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court in the two corruption cases in 2018.

The court had reserved its verdict on Wednesday after hearing from the NAB Additional Prosecutor Jahanzeb Khan Bharwana.

After dismissal of the pleas, the original sentence in the two cases have been reinstated.

The accountability court had in 2018 sentenced Sharif to 10 years in prison for owning assets beyond known income and one year for not cooperating with NAB in the Avenfield case. His daughter, Maryam, was handed seven years imprisonment for abetment.

In the same year, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case, where illegal investments were detected.

Earlier, the Islamabad High Court has given multiple opportunities to Sharif to return to Pakistan and appear before the court to pursue his appeals. However, the former prime minister's family has maintained that there is a health risk in travel.

'[Nawaz] proceeded abroad and did not appear before this court despite [being] on bail and without any justification or basis, remained absent on a number of dates of hearing, hence this court was left with no option but to follow the procedure ... and declared him as fugitive from law,' according to the judgement. PTI SH IND AKJ IND

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