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Convictions handed in Avenfield verdict may not be sustainable: IHC

The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday issued a detailed judgment regarding its order to suspend the sentences of former premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar in the Avenfield corruption reference.
The 41-page judgment on the IHC’s September 19 order has been written by Justice Athar Minallah.
“In hindsight, the sentences awarded to the suspects cannot hold for a long time,” the judgment read.
“The accountability court which awarded the sentences did not state how or refer to evidence regarding how Maryam assisted Nawaz in the purchase of the Avenfield apartments,” it added.
Further, the judgement stated, “The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) mostly relied on Panama Papers case to argue their points against suspension in sentences.”
“Suspects were also indicted under NAB ordinance Section 9(a)(iv) but a trial court acquitted them under the same. However, the prosecution did not challenge the acquittal,” the judgment read.
“Court findings are not final and our opinions or observations will not influence the appeals,” the bench further said in its judgment.
On September 19, a two-judge bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb gave the judgment on petitions filed by Nawaz, Maryam and Capt (retd) Safdar challenging the Avenfield verdict against them.
Justice Minallah read the judgment and suspended the sentences handed to the three by accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir on July 6. Nawaz, Maryam and Capt (retd) Safdar were sentenced to 11 years, eight years and one year, respectively, in prison in the Avenfield properties reference.
We accept the petitioners’ pleas seeking a suspension in their sentences, Justice Minallah said.
Ordering their release, the two-judge bench directed the former premier, his daughter and son-in-law to submit bail bonds worth Rs0.5 million each.
The sentences will remain suspended till the final adjudication of the appeals filed by the petitioners.
SentencesAccountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6 convicted Nawaz, Maryam and Capt (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield properties reference and sentenced them to 11 years, eight years and one year, respectively, in prison.
Nawaz and Maryam were arrested on July 13 upon arrival in Lahore from London.
On July 16, the Sharifs had filed appeals for the Avenfield verdict to be overturned.
Further, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition filed by the NAB challenging the IHC’s decision to hear Sharifs’ petitions against the Avenfield verdict.
On September 15, the anti-graft body had moved the Supreme Court in an effort to keep the IHC from ruling on an application from the Sharif family seeking the suspension of the Avenfield verdict. However, imposing a Rs20,000 fine on the bureau, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar noted that justice should be served to petitioners.