An appeals court in Pakistan upholds conviction of Imran Khan and his wife for unlawful marriage

Officials in Pakistan say an appeals court has upheld the conviction and seven-year prison sentence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife for their 2018 marriage which was found to be unlawful

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

ISLAMABAD (AP) — An appeals court in Pakistan Thursday upheld the conviction and seven-year prison sentence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife for their 2018 marriage which was found to be unlawful, officials said.

The decision drew strong condemnation from Khan's supporters and his party who were expecting the couple to be freed on bail.

The verdict by Judge Afzal Majoka came two days after the conclusion of the arguments from the defense lawyer and petitioner, who is the former husband of Khan's wife Bushra Bibi. His legal team said they would challenge the court's decision.

In February, Khan and his wife were sentenced to seven years in prison after a court concluded that the couple violated the law that a woman must wait three months before marrying again.

Bibi, Khan's third wife, was a spiritual healer previously married to a man who claimed they divorced in November 2017, less than three months before she married Khan. Bibi says they divorced in August 2017.

The couple denied they violated the three-month waiting period — a requirement of Islamic law and upheld by Pakistan.

Since his ouster from power in 2022 through a no-confidence vote in the parliament, Khan has been facing more than 150 court cases, including inciting people to violence after his arrest in May 2023. He is serving multiple prison terms at Adiala prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

He has denied any wrongdoing and his supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

During nationwide riots in May, Khan's supporters attacked several military installations, stormed an air base in Mianwali in the eastern Punjab province and torched a building housing state-run Radio Pakistan in the northwest. The violence subsided only when Khan was released at the time by the Supreme Court.

Khan, who remains the country's popular opposition leader, was again arrested in August 2023 when a court handed him a three-year jail sentence for corruption. Since then, he has not been seen publicly as his trials were held at prisons for security reasons.

Thursday's ruling was condemned by supporters from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which has a strong presence in the parliament. “Absolutely ridiculous," said Omar Ayub, a top leader of the party.

The latest development came two days after a U.S. congressional resolution called “the full and independent investigation of claims of interference or irregularities" in Pakistan’s Feb. 8 vote, drawing a strong reaction from Islamabad.

The resolution was seen as a boost for Khan’s party which has insisted that its victory was converted into a defeat by the country’s Election Commission, a charge it denied.

But Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday “we believe in constructive dialogue and engagement based on mutual respect and understanding” and “such resolutions are therefore neither constructive nor objective.” It said the resolution “stems from an incomplete understanding of the political situation and electoral process in Pakistan”.