Nawaz Sharif acquitted in plane hijacking case (Lead)

July 17th, 2009 - 2:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz Sharif Islamabad, July 17 (IANS) Pakistan’s Supreme Court Friday acquitted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the 10-year-old plane hijacking case, stemming from events on the day he was forcibly removed from the premier’s post. The ruling removed the last ban on Sharif running for public office, a media report said.
A five-member bench of the apex court in its ruling said there was no evidence to support the charge of hijacking against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, Geo TV reported. The case had been registered by the government of General Pervez Musharraf.

The bench had heard the case June 18 and reserved its verdict.

Sharif was sentenced to life imprisonment twice by the Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court (APC) in April 2000, after it found him guilty of refusing to allow a commercial aircraft carrying Musharraf and 200 other passengers to land at Karachi airport Oct 12, 1999.

That was the day Musharraf carried out a bloodless coup to dethrone Sharif.

Sharif in his immediate reaction to the ruling said he was relieved and thanked God for his acquittal.

“Allah (God) has determined the truth and now I will work day and night for serving the people of Pakistan,” he said.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani have congratulated Sharif following the court verdict.

Gilani said the Supreme Court verdict was a proof of democracy, while Zardari said in a statement that the verdict further opened the doors to Sharif for electoral politics, Xinhua reported.

Sharif was barred from holding any public office for 21 years and fined Rs.50 million (about $625,000) after being convicted of plane hijacking and putting lives of over 200 people, including Musharraf, in danger.

While he was imprisoned, he agreed to go into exile under a deal with Musharraf who had taken over as Pakistan’s president. In 2008, before the general elections, the PML-N leader was allowed to enter Pakistan but was prevented from contesting due to the court conviction.

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