Islamabad: Pakistan's anti-graft court on Thursday indicted ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law in a corruption case related to the Avenfield properties in London.
The case was one of the three cases registered by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on 8 September against 67-year-old Sharif, his children and son-in-law in the Accountability Court in Islamabad.
The cases were registered weeks after the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif as prime minister on 28 July in the Panama Papers scandal.
The accountability court indicted Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retired) Mohammad Safdar in the London properties reference even though Sharif and lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris are both out of the country. Sharif was indicted in the presence of his representative Zafir Khan.
Sharif was also indicted in Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment corruption but he pleaded not guilty through his representative Zafir Khan.
His sons Hasan and Husain are co-accused in both Avenfiled flats and Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment references but their trial would be held separately as they have refused to appear in the court so far.
Sharif's daughter has been charged with being the beneficial owner of the Avenfield flats, while her spouse Safdar as an accomplice. He is also accused of not declaring these "assets" at the time of election in 2013.
The court adjourned the hearing in the Avenfield flats reference case till 26 October, when formal trial would start.
Meanwhile, the court adjourned hearing in the Flagship Investments case, the third case filed by NAB against Sharif and his sons, till Friday.
The court is expected to indict Sharif in this case also, though he is still in London and is sure to miss the hearing. But his legal team and representative will attend the hearing, according to his party officials.
Sharif, talking to media in London, once again assailed his disqualification and termed his indictment in absence as "murder of justice".
He also announced to come back before hearing of 26 October. There were also reports that he would come back on Sunday.
Sharif is with his ailing wife Kulsoom, who is suffering from throat cancer and has undergone three surgeries so far.
Earlier, at the start of the hearing, the defence filed application to postpone the indictment as Sharif was absent due to illness of his wife. The defence team also argued that head of Sharif's legal team Khawaja Harris was out of country due to an emergency and in his absence Sharif should not be indicted.
But the court after hearing the argument rejected the application.
The accountability court also rejected another application by Sharif to stop trial until a decision by the Supreme Court where Sharif has filed a petition to convert three corruption cases into one case as they all deal with the same issue of income beyond known means.
The court, however, rejected the application after arguments by defence and prosecution lawyers.
Sharif's team then filed a third application in the accountability court and asked that all three cases should be changed into a single case. The court also rejected it after hearing arguments.
The hearing started at around 9 am and went on till after midday. The judge stopped the hearing thrice and went to his chamber to contemplate on the different applications.
Maryam in a chat with reporters said that it was for the first time that "Sicilian mafia" was appearing in the court.
She was referring to a term used against Sharif and his family by a Supreme Court bench which later disqualified Sharif and ordered cases against the family.
"It is for the first time that first, a decision was given (about disqualification of Sharif) and now trial is being held," she said.
Sharif, his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and independent lawyers had objected to the use of phrase by the Supreme Court, saying mafia groups are seldom held accountable or appear before courts with free will.
Sharif once again missed the hearing as he has not returned from London. But his daughter and son-in-law were present in the court, said Minister of State for Information Mariyum Aurangzeb.
"He (Sharif) has faced courts and he believes in rule of law. He will soon come back to face the cases," she said.
Earlier, the court had announced to indict the accused on 9 October 9 but postponed it till 13 October as Sharif was not present.
The court during the hearing on 9 October decided to separate the trial of Husain and Hasan from Sharif and his daughter and son-in-law.
It also ordered to start the process of declaring proclaimed offender to Sharif's son Husain and Hasan for failing to appear before the court.
Heavy security arrangements were made to deal with any untoward situation. Unlike the previous hearing on 13 October when lawyers created chaos, the situation was totally different, peaceful and smooth.
The cases are based on the 28 July verdict by the Supreme Court which disqualified Sharif and ordered to launch three corruption cases against him and his family and one case against finance minister Ishaq Dar.
Dar has already been indicted and his trial has begun.
Published Date: Oct 20, 2017 06:37 am | Updated Date: Oct 20, 2017 06:37 am