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August 21, 2018

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Avenfield judgment: IHC reserves verdict on Sharifs’ appeals

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday reserved its verdict on the appeals filed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar challenging the Avenfield reference verdict against them.

The bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the appeals of the Sharif family. The court said, "At this stage, we are not inclined to decide these petitions and they shall remain pending and fixed along with other appeals. In case there is a delay in deciding of the appeals, the petitioners shall be at liberty to press these petitions."

During the hearing, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) completed its final arguments after which the verdict was reserved. In his around five-hour-long arguments, NAB Prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that the Avenfield reference, pertaining to Sharif family's properties in London, was filed on the orders of the Supreme Court, adding that the investigation team was also formed following the apex court's instructions.

"The London flats were in the name of Neilsen and Nescoll, which we proved were owned by Nawaz Sharif," he said. The NAB prosecutor gave the reference of a televised interview, to which, Justice Minallah asked him to explain the interview in detail in the appeal.

On July 6, an accountability court sentenced Nawaz to a total of 11 years in prison and slapped £8 million fine (Rs1.3 billion) in the corruption reference while his daughter Maryam was sentenced to eight years with £2 million fine (Rs335 million). Additionally, Nawaz' son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar was given a one-year sentence without any fine.

On July 16, the legal counsels for the members of Nawaz Sharif family, who are currently serving their respective sentences at the Adiala jail, had filed three different appeals on behalf of their clients.

Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris filed an appeal challenging the verdict against his client and requesting its suspension till IHC’s adjudication in the case. Similarly, Amjad Pervaiz filed the appeals on behalf of Maryam and Safdar.

An additional appeal was also filed requesting the court to transfer the Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment references against Nawaz from the court of Accountability Judge-I Mohammad Bashir to another accountability court.

The appeals, which the Sharif family lawyers say highlighted legal flaws in the Avenfield judgment, ask for the accountability court's verdict to be declared null and void and the three convicts be released on bail.

The appeals state that the head of the Panamagate Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and the prosecution's star witness Wajid Zia himself accepted that a response to the mutual legal assistance (MLA) request was not received.

They further said that leveling allegations without receiving a response to the MLA was mala fide. Legal counsels for the convicts have contended that the prosecution’s witness Robert Radley not only stated that Calibri font was available for testing purposes, he admitted to having downloaded and used the Calibri font which was available as pre-release of Windows Vista known as BETA-1 since the year 2005 while simultaneously admitting that he was neither a computer expert nor an IT expert or a computer geek.

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