Police arrested Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Lahore on Saturday after a court sentenced him to three years in prison for illegally selling state gifts, potentially barring the opposition leader from contesting an upcoming election.
Legal experts say the guilty verdict reached by an Islamabad district court could eliminate Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's greatest rival in a national election expected to be held in November.
"Police have arrested Imran Khan from his residence," Khan's lawyer, Intezar Panjotha, told Reuters. "We are filing a petition against the decision in high court."
The arrest is the latest in a series of blows that have weakened Khan's political standing, after he fell out with Pakistan's powerful military and his party splintered.
Lahore Police Chief Bilal Siddique Kamiana confirmed the arrest and told Reuters the politician was being transferred to the capital, Islamabad. He would then be held at Central Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, near the capital, according to the arrest warrant.
Khan's political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said in a statement it had already filed another appeal to the Supreme Court earlier on Saturday.
Khan, 70, is a former cricket star who went on to forge a political career and who was prime minister from 2018 to 2022. He has denied wrongdoing and in a pre-recorded video address released by his party he asked his supporters to peacefully protest.
"By the time you hear this statement, they will have arrested me. I have only one appeal: don't sit silently at home. I am struggling for you and the country and your children's future," he said.
The conviction came a day after Pakistan's high court temporarily halted the district court trial. It was not immediately clear why the trial had proceeded despite the high court decision.
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