Pakistani police file terrorism charges against ex-PM Khan

ISLAMABAD (AP) – Police in the Pakistani capital on Sunday filed charges against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, 17 of his aides and scores of supporters, accusing them of terrorism and several other crimes after the ousted prime minister’s supporters collided with security forces in Islamabad had collided day.

Clashes raged for hours on Saturday between Khan’s supporters and police outside a court where the former prime minister was due to appear on a bribery case. Riot police officers brandished batons and fired tear gas while Khan’s supporters threw firebombs and stones at officers.

More than 50 officers were injured and a police checkpoint, several cars and motorcycles were set on fire. Police said 59 of Khan’s supporters were arrested during the violence.

Khan never actually appeared in court to be accused of selling government gifts received during his tenure and concealing assets.

In addition to Khan, the case filed on Sunday also accuses former and current lawmakers, former ministers, a former Speaker of the National Assembly and numerous supporters of Khan. The charges include terrorism, obstructing police officers in the performance of their duties, assaulting police officers, wounding officers and threats to their lives.

The latest developments concern the escalating violence surrounding 70-year-old Khan, who was ousted by a vote of no confidence in Parliament last April. Since then, the former cricket star-turned-Islamist politician has claimed – without producing any evidence – that his ouster was illegal and a conspiracy by the government of his successor Shahbaz Sharif and Washington. Both Sharif and the United States have denied the allegations.

Also on Saturday, violence erupted again outside Khan’s home in the eastern city of Lahore, where officers and Khan’s supporters clashed in a two-day standoff early last week after police arrived in the upscale neighborhood to arrest Khan.

Amid tear gas and clashes, police stormed Khan’s home and later said they arrested 61 suspects and seized petrol bombs, guns and ammunition. Khan was not at home as he had traveled to Islamabad for court appearances. After failing to appear in court, the judge postponed that hearing until March 30.

In a recorded video message broadcast on Sunday, Khan accused police of failing to appear in court on Saturday and said he never left his vehicle as police threw tear gas at his convoy and supporters.

Without offering anything to back his claim, Khan said his opponents were bent on either imprisoning him or killing him, and denounced the raid on his home in Lahore as “shameful tactics, conspiracies and schemes”.

Home Secretary Rana Sanaullah accused Khan of “creating the whole drama just to evade the courts”.

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