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Pakistan PM found guilty of contempt of court

(Xinhua)

13:31, April 26, 2012

ISLAMABAD, April 26 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday found Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani guilty of contempt of court for failing to act on its directives to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
A seven-judge bench headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk convicted Gilani of contempt of court but spared him a prison term. The prime minister was not arrested and he left the court room after the judges ended the proceedings.

Legal experts say that the prime minister has the right to file an appeal.

The court had reserved its judgment on the case after the completion of months of arguments by the defence and the prosecution.

The Supreme Court had been asking the government to revive cases of alleged money laundering against President Zardari in Switzerland since December 2009, when it canceled a graft amnesty issued by former President Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008).

All corruption cases had been withdrawn after the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party of President Zardari signed a deal with Pervez Musharraf in 2007 after nearly an year of secret talks.

Around 8000 people, including President Zardari, his slain spouse and two times Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, other politicians and government officers were benefited from the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

In 2009, the Supreme Court overturned the amnesty law which protected President Zardari and other politicians from being prosecuted for corruption.

Gilani had refused to accept the court's orders, saying the president enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad. Gilani had appeared in the apex court twice before and had decided to fight the case.

He was formally indicted with contempt of court on Feb. 13, but he insisted that he would prefer to go to prison and face disqualification but will not approach the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against the president.

Gilani has always insisted during the proceedings that he had done nothing against the government's rules of business.

Gillani was elected Prime minister of Pakistan in March 2008 after his Pakistan Peoples Party won a considerable victory in the parliamentary elections.

Senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan People's Party and its allies met Wednesday and threw support behind Gilani.

Political observers believe that the case was part of a stand- off between the government and the highest judiciary.

Gilani's motorcade arrived at the main entrance of the court's building and then the prime minister walked on foot along with cabinet ministers and party leaders to the court's building, waving to the media and some of his supporters.

Helicopters hovered overhead and hundreds of riot police were guarding the Supreme Court as the prime minister arrived.

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