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Entries in Contempt of Court (3)

Thursday
Apr262012

Pakistan's Top Court Convicts Prime Minister of Contempt

TONY ASHBY/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court has convicted the country's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of contempt, the latest step in a case that has stoked political tensions for months and threatens to launch the country into a new political crisis.

"The prime minister is found guilty of contempt for willfully flouting the direction of the Supreme Court," read Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk on Thursday to a courtroom packed with Gilani supporters, many wearing Pakistani flags pinned to their lapels.

"His offence tends to bring this court and the judiciary of this country into ridicule," he said.

As part of the ruling, the Supreme Court ordered him sentenced only "until the rising of the court," a process that lasted mere minutes.  Although the sentence was a symbolic gesture, meaning Gilani avoids any jail time, he still faces an uncertain political future.  Now that he has been convicted, he could be dismissed from office.

The case against Gilani, the country's second highest ranking politician, stems from a corruption case in the 1990s against Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, before he came to power.  The corruption case was dismissed in 2007 under an amnesty rule issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, but the Supreme Court later reversed the decision, ordering Gilani to reopen the probe.  He refused, arguing that the president is immune from prosecution during his term.  In response, the Supreme Court charged him with contempt.

The scene outside the courthouse Thursday was pandemonium as Gilani arrived to hundreds of his supporters chanting "Jia Jia Bhutto," a rallying cry for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).  As he emerged, throngs of people, including several members of cabinet, jostled for positions with journalists and riot police to get close to the prime minister, before he was quickly ushered away.

For the ruling PPP, which had threatened nation-wide protests if Gilani was sentenced to any jail time, the verdict represents neither a victory nor a defeat.  The PPP has routinely criticized the Supreme Court for being too politicized and targeting members of its party unfairly.

"It's not a new case, it's not a new history," said current Cabinet Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan, speaking to media outside the courthouse.  "It's the continuity of the previous biased behaviors of the courts."

Others say the verdict amounts to a victory for the Pakistani people.

"In our country, the law is now supreme," said Raja Asif Abbas, a former federal prosecutor who conducted several high profile corruption cases in the past.  "The constitution is now the supreme thing.  The rule of law is there no matter what.  If you are driving a cab or if you are the chief executive of the country, we are all treated equally before the eyes of the law."

Now that Gilani has been found guilty, the issue will be referred to the speaker of the House, who can begin a months-long process that would culminate in Gilani's dismissal from his post.  Equally as likely, analysts say, the ruling party could wait out the process, and call elections for the fall, bypassing the dismissal process altogether.

Gilani's lawyer has already said he will appeal the decision, a move that could delay things even further.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb132012

Pakistan's Prime Minister Charged with Contempt of Court

TONY ASHBY/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) --  Pakistan's longest serving prime minister was charged with contempt of court on Monday, triggering proceedings that could paralyze an already weak government and lead to his removal from office.

Even if Yousuf Raza Gilani is convicted and thrown in jail, that is not expected to cause the government to fall, and important Senate elections will almost certainly proceed in early March. Still, the Pakistan People's Party continues to struggle to govern a country suffering from an economic crisis and ongoing violence. The contempt proceedings are likely to further divert attention from critical subjects, including a new set of rules of engagement with the U.S.

You "have willfully flouted, disregarded, and disobeyed instructions given by this court," read Justice Nasir ul-Mulk, the head of a seven-judge panel of Pakistan's highest court.  "You have committed contempt of court ... and you are to be tried."

In 2009, the Court demanded that the government invite Switzerland to reopen corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, who was accused of laundering money through Swiss banks. Gilani has refused, arguing that Zardari maintains immunity so long as he is president, and that the cases, which led to guilty findings in the 1990s, were politically motivated.

On Monday, Gilani appeared in court and pleaded not guilty. His trial will begin later this month and will likely be dragged on for weeks, if not months.

"I am sanguine that the court will show restraint," said Punjab governor Latif Khosa, a senior member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party and a former attorney general.

Even though Monday did not bring the downfall of the government, as some Pakistani media had suggested, it was still a historic challenge to the country's fragile democracy. Gilani is the first sitting prime minister to be indicted with contempt of court and some fear that the court is trying to bring the government down, perhaps in collusion with the country's powerful military. 

"This democratic dispensation -- regardless of its own faults, regardless of its own omissions -- it has had to face a lot of pressure, from Rawalpindi, from Apbarra," said Ayaz Amir, a columnist and an opposition member of parliament, referring to the headquarters of the military and its premier intelligence service.  "It will be some time before we can say that look here, the tree of democracy has struck deep and strong roots, and it is there to stand."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb022012

Prime Minister of Pakistan to Be Charged with Contempt of Court

TONY ASHBY/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- In a move sure to further destabilize government in Islamabad, the top court in Pakistan has decided to proceed with contempt of court charges against Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani for refusing to reopen a corruption case against Pakistani President Asif Zardari.

The contempt case against Gilani began last month after the prime minister failed to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen an old corruption investigation involving President Zardari, the Pakistan Observer reports.  The seven justices unanimously ruled to proceed with the charges against Gilani, despite the government's adamance that Zardari could not be prosecuted while he is head of state, according to the Observer.

Attorneys for Gilani say they have plans to appeal the ruling. If the appeal should fail, Gilani will have to return to court Feb. 13, where the contempt charges will initiate.  

If Gilani is convicted, he could face up to six months in jail and be ejected from power.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio