Ousted Pakistan PM given life sentence

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The Independent Online

Six months after the army toppled his government, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to life in prison Thursday after being convicted on charges of hijacking and terrorism.

Judge Rehmetullah Jaffri acquitted Sharif on charges of attempted murder and kidnapping.

Sharif was accused of refusing to let a passenger plan carrying the country's military chief from landing in Pakistan, endangering all 198 people on board.

The other six co-defendants, including Sharif's brother, were acquitted of all the charges by Judge Rehmetullah Jaffri.

Sharif is expected to appeal.

Seated at the rear of the cavernous courtroom, not far from her husband, Khulsoom Sharif whispered prayers from the Koran, the Muslim holy book. Party officials have said they will not ask their supporters to take to the streets.

Sharif was charged with hijacking after refusing to allow the passenger aircraft returning Gen. Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan to land in the southern city of Karachi. The standoff in the air over Karachi occurred in the midst of an Oct. 12 coup. The army seized power after Sharif dismissed Musharraf and replaced him with a junior general.

The plane was allowed to land after the army gained control, but by then the aircraft had barely seven minutes of fuel remaining. There were 198 people aboard the aircraft including 60 children from U.S.-run American schools in Pakistan, attended by children of U.S. and other diplomats stationed here.