- Two-judge IHC bench issues notices to NAB, as accountability judge adjourns Al-Azizia hearing till July 18
- Nawaz’s plea seeking transfer of remaining references to another accountability court adjourned until July 30
- Sharifs’ lawyers point to flaws in Avenfield reference verdict, say Judge Bashir’s opinion will affect remaining two cases
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday admitted the appeals of convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar in the Avenfield case but postponed proceedings in the regard until the last week of July.
The court, however, dismissed Nawaz’s plea to stay the trials of the remaining two corruption references till the matter is decided by the IHC.
In a related development, Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir adjourned proceedings in the Al Azizia corruption reference until July 18. Nawaz’s counsel had moved the IHC against conducting a jail trial and had entered a plea seeking the suspension of the Avenfield reference verdict.
Earlier on Tuesday, a two-judge IHC bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard the appeals of the Sharif family.
The bench observed that since the high court registrar’s office had not notified the division bench for next week, the appeals against the convictions of Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar were being adjourned until the last week of July.
Beginning his arguments, Nawaz’s lawyer Khawaja Haris argued that the accountability judge has already given the verdict in one reference hence he cannot hear the other two references.
Justice Aurangzeb asked Haris if the judge has given any opinion on the other two references in Avenfield judgement.
The court issued notices to NAB in all three petitions filed; the appeal against the judgement, the request to set aside the judgement and a writ petition seeking the suspension of the order, and a transfer application to another judge. In their arguments, both the defence counsels pointed to different flaws in the judgement.
Nawaz’s defence counsel said that the burden of evidence on the accused can only be if the prosecution fulfills the four ingredients required. However, in the judgement, the value of Avenfield apartments was not mentioned, neither was Nawaz’s known source of income. Without these two values, how did the court assess that the apartments were “beyond known sources of income”.
Haris also stated that head of JIT, Wajid Zia admitted in court that the children do not depend on Nawaz; this entire statement was omitted from the judgement. Maryam’s counsel argued that all of her role is aiding and abetting Nawaz, however, accusations levelled against him need to be proven first, only then will the finger point at Maryam.
Three appeals were filed by the counsels; to transfer the case from Judge Bashir to another judge, appeal against the accountability court verdict and a writ petition filed to suspend the judgement. The lower court had ordered for the future trial to be held at Adiala where the convicted trio is serving their sentence.
Regarding trust deeds, Amjad Pervaiz — the counsel for Maryam and Safdar — said that the court passed a verdict against Maryam for preparing forged trust deeds on the basis of the opinion of forensic expert Robert Radley. Radley said that the deeds were not genuine for being written in Calibri font in Feb 2006 when it was not commercially available — yet, the expert himself was using the font in 2005, the lawyer argued.
Regarding Safdar, Pervaiz argued that in the 174-page judgement, the judge mentioned Safdar only once, that too for awarding him one-year imprisonment.
The court summoned the investigation officer in Avenfield reference and also issued a notice to the prosecution to appear in the next hearing.
Regarding the transfer of references, Haris argued that in the Avenfield reference judgement, Judge Bashir discarded the money trail based on sale proceeds of Gulf Steel Mills. He said that since the pending references are also based on the same money trail, the judge may discard the trail again.
When informed about Judge Bashir writing a letter to recuse himself from the remaining two references, Justice Kayani remarked that the matter would be dealt with administratively.
The hearing on the petitions seeking transfer of Al Azizia and Flagship references from the court of Judge Bashir to another accountability court has been adjourned until July 30.
On Monday, the Sharifs challenged their conviction by the accountability court in the Avenfield reference in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) as the 10-day deadline for the review petition expired on Monday.
Seven separate appeals were filed by the three convicts’ lawyers ─ three on behalf of Nawaz and two each on behalf of Maryam and Safdar ─ pertaining to their conviction in the corruption reference.
The appeal, filed by Nawaz’s legal counsel Khawaja Haris and Maryam and Safdar’s lawyer Amjad Pervaiz, highlights flaws in the Avenfield judgement and asks the IHC to declare accountability court’s verdict null and void and release the three convicts on bail.