Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has been arrested at his home in Lahore on Saturday after a court sentenced him to three years in prison for illegally selling state gifts, potentially barring the opposition leader from contesting an upcoming election.
The former international cricket star has long warned he would be arrested to prevent him from participating in elections that are due to be held before the end of the year.
“Police have arrested Imran Khan from his residence,” Khan’s lawyer, Intezar Panjotha, told Reuters. “We are filing a petition against the decision in high court.”
Lahore Police Chief Bilal Siddique Kamiana confirmed the arrest and told Reuters the politician was being transferred to the capital, Islamabad. He would then be held at Central Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, near the capital, according to the arrest warrant.
Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said in a statement it had already filed another appeal to the Supreme Court earlier on Saturday.
Khan, 70, is a former cricket star who went on to forge a political career and who was prime minister from 2018 to 2022. He has denied any wrongdoing and in a pre-recorded video address released by his party he asked his supporters to peacefully protest.
“By the time you hear this statement, they will have arrested me. I have only one appeal: don’t sit silently at home. I am struggling for you and the country and your children’s future,” he said.
The conviction came just a day after Pakistan’s high court temporarily halted the district court trial. It was not immediately clear why the trial had proceeded despite the high court decision.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a broadcast statement that Khan’s arrest followed a full investigation and proper legal proceedings in a trial court. She said his arrest was unrelated to the upcoming elections.
In May, Khan was arrested and briefly detained in Islamabad for the same case, sparking deadly unrest during which supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party poured onto the streets and clashed with police.
In the aftermath of his release following three days in custody, PTI has been targeted by a crackdown with thousands of arrests, reports of intimidation and muzzling of the press.
A copy of the court verdict, shared by Khan’s legal team, said the former premier had made false statements in relation to acquiring official state gifts.
“He has been found guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he accrued from national exchequer wilfully and intentionally,” the verdict said.
“He cheated while providing information about gifts he obtained from Toshakhana (state gift repository) which later proved to be false and inaccurate.”