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The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad:
"Mr Sharif faces the possibility of a long spell in prison, or even the death sentence"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Security tight for Sharif verdict

Police presence has been strengthened throughout Karachi
Security has been tightened in the Pakistani city of Karachi ahead of the verdict in the trial of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif.

If found guilty, Mr Sharif - who was deposed in an army coup last year - could face a death sentence.

Paramilitary troops took up positions outside the court building and the police presence has been strengthened throughout the southern port city.


He [Sharif] is in high spirits and very hopeful

Kulsoom Sharif
Earlier a bomb explosion outside a courtroom in the nearby city of Hyderabad wounded two people.

But there was nothing to suggest it was linked to the trial.

Prayers

Mr Sharif's wife, Kulsoom, joined supporters of her husband's Pakistan Muslim League (PML) party in a special prayer meeting ahead of Thursday's verdict.

"He [Sharif] is in high spirits and very hopeful," she said.


Special prayers for Nawaz Sharif
"Inshallah [God willing] everything will be all right ... I believe Nawaz Sharif will soon be with us," she said.

A senior figure in the party said there would be no protests if Mr Sharif was found guilty.

Raja Zafarul Haq - head of the PML co-ordination committee - said: "We will not ask our party workers to break the law or stage violent protests should [Sharif] be convicted by the special court."

Mrs Sharif was recently reported to have said that her husband's supporters might take to the streets if he is convicted.

"One can understand her anxiety, but the party has no plans to confront the army and we are sure that Mrs Nawaz Sharif will abide by the party decision," said Haq.

However, he said the party would challenge a conviction in court.

'Innocent'

Mr Sharif, his brother Shahbaz and five others are charged with hijacking, attempted murder and terrorism.

The charges stem from 12 October, when a civilian plane carrying army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, and 198 other passengers was briefly denied permission to land at Karachi.

Later that day, General Musharraf overthrew Mr Sharif's government in a bloodless coup.

"I have full faith in Allah. I am innocent," Mr Sharif told journalists in the court as the trial ended last week.

The trial is being followed with great interest across Pakistan.

It has even led to people placing bets, despite the fact that gambling is seen as contrary to Islamic teachings.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | South Asia
Coup timing crucial to case
27 Mar 00 | South Asia
Sharif lawyers demand acquittal
20 Mar 00 | South Asia
Death penalty sought for Sharif
30 Nov 99 | South Asia
Analysis: Justice under scrutiny
24 Mar 00 | South Asia
Musharraf 'planned hijack'
13 Oct 99 | South Asia
Profile: Nawaz Sharif
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