Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, sentenced to three years in prison for corruption, is in “a good state of mind” despite harsh prison conditions, his spokesman said on Monday.

His lawyers are working to obtain his release on bail and the suspension of the court decision.

Imran Khan, who wanted to run in the elections scheduled for the end of the year after being ousted from power by a no-confidence motion in April 2022, was sentenced by a court on Saturday and immediately arrested at his home.

He has since been moved to a century-old prison on the outskirts of the historic town of Attock, about 60 kilometers west of the capital Islamabad.

“He is being held in deplorable conditions, unworthy of a human being, but he is in a good state of mind,” Khan’s spokesman Raoof Hasan told AFP.

According to his spokesperson, the former Prime Minister wishes “to tell the people that I will not compromise on my principles”.

A lawyer visited Mr Khan on Monday and obtained the power of attorney which allows them to apply for bail on his behalf and appeal for his transfer to a more comfortable and safe “class A cell”. usually reserved for VIPs.

“We hope we can get the bail, stay the decision and revoke the disqualification,” Mr. Hasan said.

The septuagenarian is being held in a so-called “class C” cell, where he sleeps on a mattress on the floor, with just enough room for a prayer mat, according to Mr. Hasan.

It has little daylight and a fan, but no air conditioner despite the heat, the spokesperson said.

Accused of having received, when he was in power, gifts whose value he underestimated before reselling them at a high price, the former cricket star turned politician believes that these lawsuits are motivated by political considerations aimed at preventing him from representing himself.

Anyone convicted of a criminal offense is generally excluded from elections or holding office.

Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced on Sunday that parliament is likely to be dissolved on Wednesday, days before the scheduled end of his term.

This would give the new caretaker government until mid-November to hold elections. However, they could be delayed after the publication on Saturday of data from the country’s latest census.

Constituencies are expected to be redrawn according to the new census, which could delay the elections by two and a half months, Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told local television.

– “Respect the law” –

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has argued for “the need to respect the right to peaceful assembly”, according to his deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq.

Mr. Guterres also urged “all parties to refrain from violence” and the Pakistani authorities “to respect due process and the rule of law”, added Mr. Haq.

Mr Khan’s party won a by-election over the weekend and was edged out by an independent candidate in a run-off, with both polls taking place in his stronghold in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“The fact that he is in prison is not going to dent his popularity,” Mr. Hasan said. “He is the leader of the people and there is every reason for the establishment to sit down and talk to him.”

Scattered demonstrations bringing together a few dozen people were reported, notably in front of the High Court of Lahore.

In the neighboring town of Gujranwala, a demonstration of a dozen lawyers was dispersed by the police. In Muzaffarabad, in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, around 100 PTI workers also gathered.

Imran Khan’s arrest and detention for three days in connection with the same case in May sparked deadly street clashes between tens of thousands of his supporters and the police.

“The mixed reaction to his arrest is due to the total repression by PTI activists after the first arrest,” columnist Usama Khilji told AFP.

“The arrests of PTI members after the arrest of Imran Khan in May and the draconian laws hastily passed by (the coalition government) have had a chilling effect on Pakistani citizens.”

08/08/2023 01:38:21  –         Islamabad (AFP)  –         © 2023 AFP