The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday suspended the Avenfield verdict, ruling in favor of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and her husband Muhammad Safdar.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb delivered its ruling on petitions filed by the Sharif family against the Avenfield reference. It ruled that the prisoners’ sentences would be suspended and they would be allowed to go free, pending appeal hearings. The Sharif family’s lawyers will now have to establish that their clients had been initially sentenced on invalid grounds to substantiate this interim relief.
The two-judge bench also ordered the accused to submit bail bonds worth Rs. 500,000 each.
“Today, the Islamabad High Court has suspended the verdict against Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and his son-in-law Captain Safdar and ordered to release them on bail until a final decision,” Khawaja Haris, Sharif’s lawyer, told AFP.
Dozens of jubilant supporters chanted “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif!” outside the court after the decision was announced.
“Today the court has suspended the decision that was based on revenge,” former minister Ahsan Iqbal told reporters. “This trial is important because even a blind person in Pakistan will see that there was neither law nor Constitution in the decision and it was just pre-poll rigging to pave the way for Imran Khan to win elections,” he claimed.
Earlier, during hearings, Justice Minallah had observed that the accountability court’s July 6 verdict—sentencing Sharif to 10 years imprisonment, Maryam to 7 years and Safdar to 1 year and barring the accused from contesting elections or holding public office for 10 years after release—was “based on the assumption that the Avenfield properties are occupied by the children but owned by Nawaz.” Justice Aurangzeb questioned how Maryam was sentenced for the ownership of the Avenfield apartments alongside her father—as both cannot be sentenced under the same indictment charges. “How can there be two types of ownership at one time?”
Sharif was arrested on his return to the country in July this year.
An anti-corruption court that month sentenced them to 10 and seven years respectively over properties they allegedly owned in Britain, following revelations in the Panama Papers.