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Former Pakistani prime minister challenges his conviction in high court

Lawyers in support of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, denounce his arrest during a protest outside the High Court in Lahore on August 7, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Pakistan's jailed former prime minister Imran Khan has appealed against his conviction that bars him from politics for five years.

Khan was arrested at the weekend and taken to jail after a court, which he did not attend, found him guilty in one of the more than dozens of cases he has faced. 

The former prime minister has maintained that some 200 cases against him are politically motivated to keep him out of power. He says the country's powerful military is behind these cases. 

The three-year jail sentence issued by a lower court on Saturday disqualifies him from taking part in elections that are scheduled to be held before the end of the year.

The election commission on Tuesday disqualified Khan for five years following his conviction last week.

Khan's lawyers said the petition challenging the conviction had been filed in Islamabad High Court which will hear the case on Wednesday.

"We've submitted an appeal... our plea requests a temporary suspension of the trial court's ruling and seeks bail," Khan's lawyer Gohar Khan told AFP.

"We're hopeful that we will be able to secure bail and the decision will be suspended and the disqualification revoked,"  said Khan's spokesman Raoof Hasan.

If his appeal is unsuccessful, this ruling would only allow Khan to return to politics after five years.

One of Khan's lawyers met him on Monday at a century-old jail on the outskirts of the historical city of Attock.

"He is being held in deplorable conditions not fit for any human, but he is in good spirits," Hasan said.

"He said to 'tell the people that I will not compromise on my principles'."

Khan has repeatedly said the mounting cases against him are politically motivated. 

His arrest sparked scattered protests, including outside Lahore High Court.

Police arrested dozens of supporters of Khan who gathered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province on Sunday.

Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party, was briefly detained in Islamabad in connection with the same case.

Back in May, his violent arrest, which later on was declared illegal by the country's Supreme Court, sparked widespread protests during which tens of thousands of supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party poured onto the streets and clashed with police.

It also prompted the crackdown that saw almost all of his top leadership arrested.

"The muted response to his arrest is because of the full-throttle crackdown on PTI workers after the first arrest," AFP quoted columnist Usama Khilji as saying.

Parliament will be dissolved on August 9,  just before it completes its term.

A general election is due to be held by mid-November.

But there is speculation that the elections could be delayed following the release on Saturday of the country’s latest census results, which necessitates the redrawing of constituencies under Pakistani law.

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