Pakistani prime minister appeals against contempt charge

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, center, arrives at the Supreme Court in Islamabad on January 19.

Story highlights

  • The prime minister's lawyer says he has submitted arguments against contempt charge
  • A Supreme Court panel will consider the appeal, the lawyer says
  • The court announced plans last week to charge the prime minister with contempt
  • It wants him to ask Switzerland to reopen old corruption charges against the current president
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani filed an appeal Wednesday against a Supreme Court decision to charge him with contempt, his lawyer said, the latest move in a drawn-out struggle between the country's political leaders and the judiciary.
The attorney, Aitzaz Ahsan, said that as part of the appeal, he had submitted more than 50 arguments to show why a contempt charge against Gilani was not justified.
"The Supreme Court should stop all proceedings against the prime minister to hear my appeals," he said.
Last week, the Supreme Court announced plans to charge Gilani with contempt of court for failing to follow the court's order for the government to contact Swiss authorities and ask them to reopen old corruption charges against the current Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari.
A nine member panel of Supreme Court judges will be formed to consider the appeal, Ahsan said. It was not immediately clear when that hearing would take place.
The court has already summoned Gilani to appear February 13 to be charged with contempt.
The developments are part of a long-running battle between Gilani's government and the judges over the court's demand to have the corruption charges against Zadari revived.
Gilani has refused, saying the head of state is immune from prosecution.
If he is found guilty of contempt, Gilani could be forced from office. But Ahsan has said that Gilani would keep his position unless electoral officials disqualified him.
Gilani told CNN last month that he would go to prison if necessary.
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"If the court so desires, I have no objection," he said.
Gilani appeared in court over the contempt charge on January 19 in response to an order from judges to explain why he had refused to reopen the cases against Zardari and others.
The corruption cases stem from money-laundering charges against Zardari and his late wife, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A Swiss court convicted them in absentia in 2003 of laundering millions of dollars.
After a controversial amnesty was granted in 2007 by then-President Pervez Musharraf to Zardari, Bhutto and thousands of other politicians and bureaucrats, the Pakistani government asked Swiss authorities to drop the case.
In 2009, the Pakistani Supreme Court ruled the amnesty was unconstitutional and called on the government to take steps to have the cases reopened.
The government has not done so, and the court apparently lost patience. Since Gilani is the head of the government, the court justices view him as responsible.