A Pakistani court delays ruling on ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan's conviction appeal

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A court in Pakistan’s capital delayed for a day a crucial ruling that was expected Thursday on an appeal from the country’s imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan against his recent conviction and three-year sentence in a graft case, one of his lawyers said.

The Islamabad High Court will resume hearings on Khan's appeal on Friday, his attorneys said.

The former cricket star and top opposition leader was found guilty of concealing assets after selling state gifts he received while in office and was convicted and sentenced on Aug. 5 by another court.

Khan, through his legal team, requested his release, saying the trial court sentenced him in haste. The 70-year-old Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022, is currently being held at a high-security Attock prison in eastern Punjab province. Even if Khan’s conviction is set aside, his release is unlikely as other courts have canceled his bail in multiple cases.

He has denied the charges of corruption, saying he did not violate any laws.

During Thursday's hearing, Khan's legal team, which included Babar Awan, Latif Khosa and Naeem Haider Panjutha concluded its argument. The court hearing was adjourned when Amjad Pervez, a lawyer from the prosecution, said he needed three hours to oppose Khan's appeal.

Earlier, shortly before the court hearing, Khan's lawyer, Panjutha, took to X, a platform previously known as Twitter, to express his optimism for Khan's potential release. Despite his conviction and sentencing, Khan is popular in Pakistan. His opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is expected to give political opponents a tough time in upcoming elections.

Khan will be unable to run in the election unless his appeal is granted and he is released from prison.

Earlier in August, Pakistan’s Election Commission disqualified Khan from running for office for five years based on his conviction and sentence. Under Pakistan’s laws, no convicted person is eligible to lead a party, run in elections, or hold public office.

Since his ouster in 2022, Khan has said that his removal was a conspiracy by Washington, his successor Shehbaz Sharif, and the Pakistani military — accusations that all three deny. Sharif stepped down this month after the parliament's term ended.

Khan’s legal team has also petitioned the Supreme Court of Pakistan to seek his release. However, the Supreme Court said it would only take up the matter after the Islamabad High Court ruled on Khan's appeal.

Thursday's developments come amid deepening political turmoil. The upcoming vote has been further complicated since the election oversight body announced on Aug. 17 that elections must be delayed because it needs four months to redraw constituencies to reflect the recently held census.

Under the constitution, a vote is to be held in October or November, and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar is running the day-to-day affairs.