Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been sentenced to three years in prison after he was found guilty in a corruption trial, a verdict that disqualifies him from holding political office.
Khan was arrested at his home in Lahore after the court’s ruling and is now being transported to the capital Islamabad.
The trial relates to an inquiry conducted by the election commission which found Khan guilty of unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
His PTI party said that an appeal has been lodged in the Supreme Court against the decision.
The former prime minister has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing.
In a video recorded prior to his arrest on Saturday Khan asked supporters to peacefully protest to ensure their “freedom and human rights.”
He said he was going through this “struggle” for the “future of Pakistan’s children.”
Khan, 70, was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last year and has since led a popular campaign against the current government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, accusing it of colluding with senior military leaders to remove him from office and keep him locked out of politics.
Pakistan’s government denied his arrest was politically motivated or an attempt to stop him participating in elections later this year.
“Imran was given ample opportunities to present his defense, but he consistently sought to sidestep the law, hiding behind legal complexities and employing delaying strategies,” said Maryam Aurangzeb, the country’s Information Minister.
“My message to Imran Khan is straightforward: your time is up. You can no longer deceive or hoodwink the public,” Aurangzeb added.
In May, his arrest and brief detention on a separate case triggered violent clashes between his supporters and his police. Several senior party leaders were also detained but there were no immediate signs of fresh unrest following Khan’s arrest.
Khan has also made allegations the government worked with the United States in a conspiracy to remove him from office, claims both parties rejected.
The army has previously rejected Khan’s claims it had anything to do with past purported attempts on his life.
The former international cricketer’s claims have struck a chord with a young population in a country where anger and disillusionment with the political and military establishment is being fueled by a rising cost-of-living crisis and anti-American sentiment is common.