Pakistani Court Rejects Death Sentence for Sharif
A Pakistani court Monday rejected a state appeal demanding the execution of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif for hijacking and terrorism and overturned one of his two life sentences, officials said.
In a packed court, the three-judge panel ruled on three appeals related to Sharif's conviction in April for hijacking and terrorism involving events on the night of the military coup in October last year.
His supporters immediately hailed the decision of the divisions as a setback for leader General Pervez Musharraf, who they accused, of a campaign of victimization against Sharif and his family.
Sharif's wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, said her husband was innocent, and alleged the court had handed down a politically motivated decision.
"What can one expect from judges who have taken oaths under the provisional constitution (introduced after the coup)?" a visibly upset Kulsoom said outside the court.
"They are victimising us and they are after his wife."
The appeals court unanimously dismissed state appeals demanding the death sentence for Sharif and the convictions of his six co-accused, including his brother Shahbaz, who had been acquitted in April.
And, in a split decision on Sharif's appeal against his two life sentences, it upheld the punishment for hijacking but threw out the prison term for terrorism.
One of the three judges argued Sharif was only guilty of abduction and deserved nothing more than three years' jail.
Sharif was convicted for trying to stop a jet carrying Mussaraf, who he had just sacked as army chief, and 198 passengers from landing in Pakistan on October 12, 1999.
Dangerously low on fuel, the plane was forced to circle the runway until the army eventually took control of Karachi airport and Musharraf seized power.
Sharif, who remains head of his Pakistan Muslim League, was also given 14 years in July for tax evasion and his family is facing another two corruption charges.
He has bitterly complained that the military has framed the charges and bullied the courts to remove him from the political scene.
Musharraf has come under pressure from international leaders, including US President Bill Clinton, to spare Sharif's life following his life sentences – KARACHI (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)