Lawyer: Pakistan’s PM Not Guilty of Contempt

Posted January 18th, 2012 at 6:45 am (UTC-5)
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A lawyer for Pakistan's embattled prime minister says the leader is not guilty of contempt of court and could write to Switzerland about reopening graft cases against his country's president there.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's lawyer made his comments Wednesday, a day before Mr. Gilani is scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court.

The court initiated contempt proceedings against the prime minister Monday after the government failed to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case that dates back to the 1990s against President Asif Ali Zardari. Islamabad has refused, saying Mr. Zardari has immunity as the head of state.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gilani's lawyer said there would be “no harm” in writing a letter to Swiss authorities because President Zardari enjoys full immunity from prosecution while he remains in office.

The prime minister faces a jail sentence and removal from office if found guilty of contempt.

The court order escalates the pressure on Pakistan's civilian leadership, which faces separate court battles and high tensions with the country's powerful military.

A Supreme Court-appointed panel is investigating the origin of an unsigned memo in which Pakistan's civilian government allegedly asked for U.S. help in reining in the Pakistani military, following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May.

Last week, Mr. Gilani accused army chief General Parvez Ashfaq Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence head Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha of acting unconstitutionally by making unilateral submissions to the ongoing inquiry.

In response, the military said his remarks will have “very serious ramifications,” and it warned of “grievous consequences” for the country.