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Special Event

Judge Gives Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Two Life Sentences

Aired April 6, 2000 - 8:50 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JIM MORET, CNN ANCHOR: A judge in Pakistan has given former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif two life sentences. Sharif was accused of trying to prevent from landing a plane carrying Pakistan's army chief, whom Sharif had just fired. But the plane did land. Now that general is running the country.

CNN's John Raedler has more on today's verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN RAEDLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While security pervaded the atmosphere outside the court, tension prevailed inside. The judge acquitted Nawaz Sharif's six codefendants, then, referring to hijacking and terrorism charges against Sharif, the judge said "These charges have been proved." Sharif was convicted in a special court set up when he was in power, a court designed to speed justice in terrorism cases. His lawyers say they will appeal and they are optimistic of the outcome.

KULSOOM SHARIF, WIFE OF FMR. PRIME MINISTER: The evidence which has been read for acquittal of six accused persons, I say it has been misread for conviction of the principal accused.

RAEDLER: If all appeals fail, concurrent life terms mean he will spend a minimum 25 years in jail. The prosecution will appeal against the acquittal of the six, and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shall further file an appeal against the lesser sentence afforded to the principal accused.

RAEDLER: The prosecution argues the death penalty is mandatory for hijacking. The defense and prosecution agreed on one thing, that the trial was fair.

MANZOOR AHMAD MALIK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It was a fair trial. The judge conducted the proceeding in a very judicial and transparent manner.

RAEDLER: Diplomats here say this perceived transparency and avoidance of death penalty will boost the credibility of Pakistan's new regime.

(on camera): When the military overthrew Nawaz Sharif last October, there were few demonstrations of support and few expressions of regret for the two-time prime minister. Behind his diehard supporters, reaction to his sentence is similar so far.

John Raedler, CNN, Karachi, Pakistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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