Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison by a corruption court in Islamabad Friday, lawyers said, dealing a serious blow to his party's troubled campaign ahead of July 25 elections.
"(Sharif) has been awarded 10 years imprisonment and an eight million pound ($10 million) fine" over the purchase of high-end properties in London, defence lawyer Mohammad Aurangzeb told AFP.
Prosecution lawyer Sardar Muzaffar Abbas also said that the court had ordered the properties, in London's exclusive Mayfair, be confiscated by the federal government.
Sharif is currently in London, where his wife is receiving medical treatment for cancer. The verdict immediately raised questions over whether he would return to Pakistan.
He was ousted as prime minister by the Supreme Court last year following a corruption investigation.
He was also banned from politics for life, handing the presidency of his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party over to his brother, Shahbaz, who is leading the party's campaign ahead of Pakistan's second-ever democratic transition of power.
The Sharif clan and their supporters have repeatedly denied the allegations of corruption, suggesting Nawaz is the victim of a conspiracy driven by the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for roughly half of its 70-year history.
He has since repeatedly accused the military of wanton political interference, while journalists and activists have spoken of pressure by the military to censor positive coverage of the PML-N campaign amid allegations of a "silent coup".