Pakistan court bails ex-PM Khan's aide in sedition case

·2-min read

A Pakistan court granted bail Thursday to former prime minister Imran Khan's close aide, whose arrest and alleged torture led to the ex-leader facing charges of his own in the high-stakes legal case.

Shahbaz Gill, an official in Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was arrested last month over comments about the nation's all-powerful army, which acts as a political kingmaker.

Gill said on TV that junior officers should not follow orders that violate "the will of the majority", but he was detained soon after on charges of sedition "tantamount to inciting the rank and file of armed forces towards revolt".

Since then Khan has been charged under the anti-terrorism act, and with contempt of court, after criticising the magistrate who signed off on Gill's detention -- claiming she kept him in custody despite knowing he was being tortured by police.

The byzantine case against Khan could see him barred from high office if it results in a conviction.

Pakistan's courts are often used to tie up lawmakers in tedious and long-winding proceedings that rights monitors have criticised for stifling political opposition.

Gill's lawyer Salman Safdar told AFP the Islamabad high court granted him bail on Thursday morning, with a bond of 500,000 rupees ($2,000).

"We are waiting for court's orders, and he will be released later today," he said.

Khan is set to be indicted on contempt charges at the Islamabad High Court on September 22, and has been bailed until September 20 on separate charges by the Anti-Terrorism Court.

The former cricket superstar swept to power in 2018, supported by an electorate weary of dynastic politics and a promise to sweep away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism.

But under his rule the economy slipped backwards and he lost support from the nation's military.

zz/jts-fox/dva