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Pakistan's prime minister faces contempt hearing Monday

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 1:04 PM EST, Sun February 12, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pakistan's prime minister faces a contempt hearing Monday
  • He says he's confident he won't be jailed in a standoff with Pakistani's courts
  • Gilani has refused to ask for a new investigation of charges he calls "politically motivated"

(CNN) -- Pakistan's prime minister says he has an "extremely capable" lawyer and doesn't believe the country's supreme court will jail him on contempt charges after a Monday hearing.

Gilani is locked in a standoff with the justices, who are demanding he ask Swiss authorities to reopen old corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari and others. In an interview with the satellite news network Al Jazeera, Gilani said Zardari has immunity as Pakistan's president and has beaten the same "politically motivated" charges before.

"Whatever the charges were leveled against him, he fought those cases in court," Gilani said. "He was exonerated."

Gilani has refused the court's demands and could be jailed for six months if the justices find him in contempt. The justices refused his appeal Friday, meaning he will have to appear before them on Monday.

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 served five years in prison on corruption charges brought by the previous military regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf -- counts he said were also politically motivated. Asked if he was prepared to go back to jail, he said he has an "extremely capable" lawyer and added, "I don't think that it'll happen like this."

The corruption cases stem from money-laundering charges against Zardari and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A Swiss court convicted them in absentia in 2003 of laundering millions of dollars.

After 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.

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