Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan's lawyers cannot reach him in jail

By Charlotte Greenfield

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s lawyers could not reach him on Sunday after he spent the night in a jail near the capital following his arrest the previous day on a corruption conviction, a spokesperson said.

Khan was taken by police from his home in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday and transferred to the jail just outside Islamabad, where a court had convicted him of charges arising over the sale of state gifts. The conviction likely means the cricket star-turned-politician will be disqualified from running in a national election.

“Attock prison is a ‘No Go’ area for (his) legal team as well as locals in the vicinity,” said Naeem Haider Panjotha, Khan’s spokesperson for legal affairs, adding they were unable to take him food or arrange the signing of legal documents.

Pakistan’s information minister referred a request for comment on Khan’s access to his lawyers to provincial authorities in Punjab, where the jail is located. Punjab’s top information official could not immediately be reached for comment.

It was not clear whether Khan would appear in court on Monday, after a trial court’s surprise weekend decision sentencing him to three years in prison.

The arrest was the latest in a series of blows that have weakened Khan’s political standing, after he fell out with Pakistan’s powerful military and his party splintered.

His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said it had filed appeals in higher courts over the decision.

The nationwide reaction was largely quiet, a contrast to widespread violent clashes that plunged the country into turmoil after Khan’s several-day arrest in May, despite calls by his party on Saturday for nationwide peaceful protests.

Thousands of Khan’s aides and supporters have been arrested since May, according to the interior minister. Many pro-Khan parliamentarians were also arrested and have distanced themselves from Khan, with some resigning from politics.

His arrest came days before the government was expected to dissolve parliament, which would normally lead to elections by November. But the government decided on Saturday to use the latest census as part of election procedure, potentially delaying the vote.

Britain’s foreign office said on Saturday it was closely monitoring the situation and supported democratic principles. Pakistan’s government denies Khan’s arrest was related to the election.

Legal experts say the conviction means Khan would likely be disqualified form politics for five years.

His vice chairman, former foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has taken the helm of PTI in his absence.

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; Additional reporting by Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore; Editing by William Mallard)

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