Pakistan's top court rejects prime minister's contempt appeal

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

Story highlights

  • Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is ordered to appear before the Supreme Court on Monday
  • The court rejects his appeal of its decision to summon him to charge him with contempt
  • It wants him to ask Switzerland to reopen old corruption charges against the current president
  • Gilani says the president is immune from prosecution
The Pakistani Supreme Court on Friday rejected the prime minister's appeal against its decision to charge him with contempt, his defense team said.
The ruling means Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will have to appear before the court Monday, the date it had previously set to charge him with contempt.
With the ruling, the court signaled it does not plan to budge from its stance that Gilani must send a letter to Swiss authorities urging them to reopen old corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, among others.
Gilani's lawyers had argued that the prime minister had not followed the court's order because Zardari enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad as a president in office.
The developments are part of a long-running battle between the prime minister's government and the judges over the court's demand to have the corruption charges against the president revived.
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If found guilty of contempt, the prime minister could be forced from office. But his lawyers have said he would keep his position unless electoral officials disqualified him.
Gilani told CNN last month that he would go to prison if necessary.
"If the court so desires, I have no objection," he said.
Gilani appeared in court over the planned contempt charge on January 19 in response to an order from judges to explain why he had refused to reopen the cases against the president 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 then-President Pervez Musharraf granted a controversial amnesty to Zardari in 2007, Bhutto, and thousands of other politicians and bureaucrats, Pakistan 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.