Pakistani prime minister appears in court in corruption case

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif appeared in court on Monday in connection with an old corruption case and was granted exemption from further appearances in person in the hearings, his defense lawyer said.

The case dating back four years is related to Sharif’s alleged links to a multi-million dollar housing scam in the eastern city of Lahore, according to the attorney, Amjad Pervez.

Pervez described the proceedings as a “politically-motivated case,” adding that Sharif was implicated in the case falsely, by the government of his predecessor, Imran Khan. He said he hopes for a full acquittal.

The prosecution claims Sharif abused power while he was chief minister of Punjab province from 2013 to 2018. He is accused of awarding contacts for a housing scheme for low-income citizens to those connected to his Pakistan Muslim League party. He has denied the allegations.

Sharif became prime minister in April, when he replaced Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician who was ousted through a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Khan, who came to power in 2018, claimed he never victimized his political opponents. He insisted that his ouster was U.S. conspiracy — a charge both Sharif and Washington deny.

Pervez, the attorney, successfully argued on Monday that Sharif’s regular appearances in court would negatively impact his daily work as premier, since he would have to travel often to the city of Lahore to attend the hearings. The lawyer added he would continue to represent Sharif until the verdict.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League is a family-run and family-dominated party that has long been tainted by corruption allegations.

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