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Ex-Pakistani Premier Gets Jail Term

April 15, 1999

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ A Pakistani court today sentenced former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to five years in jail on a corruption charge and disqualified her from politics, the state-run news agency reported.

The court also fined her $8.6 million.

There was no immediate comment from Ms. Bhutto, who is not in Pakistan, but her Pakistan People’s Party say they will ``most certainly″ appeal.

``It is totally unfair and the murder of a trial,″ said Naeed Khan, Ms. Bhutto’s close personal friend and party worker.

The Lahore High Court also sentenced Ms. Bhutto’s jailed husband, Asif Ali Zardari, to five years jail on a charge of corruption.

The state-run Associated Press of Pakistan said the Lahore High court found Ms. Bhutto and her husband guilty of taking kickbacks on government contracts.

Ms. Bhutto was abruptly dismissed from power in 1996 on charges of rampant corruption, economic incompetence and sanctioning police hit squads in her home town of Karachi in southern Sindh province.

In recent weeks Ms. Bhutto has held several news conferences to complain that she was not receiving a fair trial. She accused the judge of being biased against her and denying her lawyers an opportunity to present her defense.

She took her complaint to the Supreme Court which ordered the lower court to hear Ms. Bhutto’s defense. Ms. Bhutto also complained that she and her lawyers have been harassed by police and intelligence agents, and that her car was routinely searched.

The government denies the charges.

Her husband, who has been criticized even by her supporters as corrupt, has been in jail since Ms. Bhutto’s government was dismissed.

Ms. Bhutto, who had been the first and only female prime minister of the country, faces five other charges of corruption all stemming from her term in office.

Ms. Bhutto’s earlier term in power also came to a sudden end in August 1990 after only 20 months. Then too, Ms. Bhutto and her husband were charged with abusing their power, corruption and economic mismanagement. No charges were ever proven.

Party workers were being mobilized to demonstrate against the verdict, said Wasif Syed, a worker for Ms. Bhutto’s party.

``People from every city will come out on the street to demonstrate,″ he said.

Update hourly