ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani anti-graft tribunal has convicted the country's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and sentenced him to 10 years in prison over corruption.
The guilty verdict against Sharif, 68, threatens to end the career of one Pakistan's most high-profile politicians of the last century and deals a major blow to his party ahead of a general election in July.
Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawasz, was sentenced to seven years in a case stemming from documents leaked from a Panama law firm while her husband, Mohammad Safdar, got a year's sentence for giving false information to investigators.
Friday's rulings can be appealed. Sharif is in London where his wife is being treated for cancer and is in a coma after suffering a heart attack last month. He was sentenced in absentia.
The court says he and his family had failed to disclose the source of funds used to purchases luxurious London properties and had not reported them to tax authorities.
Sharif, a political survivor who served as prime minister on three occasions, was ousted by the Supreme Court in July 2017 and barred from politics for being "dishonest" by failing to report a monthly income from a company owned by his son. He denies the charges.
But he has kept control of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party that he founded.
The decision against the Sharifs comes at a time of intensifying suspicion of military meddling in politics ahead of the July 25 polls, as well as media complaints that the press is being muzzled.
Sharif had denounced the court proceedings against him as politically motivated and a judicial witch-hunt, often suggesting the hidden hand of the military was to blame.
Hours before the verdict, Maryam's husband Safdar referred to it as a "funeral" for justice, the PML-N media office said in a statement.
"It is to be seen if this decision is written by a judge or a general," Safdar said.
The military, which has ruled the nuclear-armed country for almost half of its history, denies involvement in civilian politics.
But the military ended Sharif's second stint in power in 1999 in a bloodless coup.
Sharif has argued that the military, in cahoots with top members of the judiciary, has used a series of cases against him and others in his party to tip the scales in favor of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan in the run-up to the election.
Khan is running on a socially conservative, anti-corruption platform. He denies colluding with the military establishment and praises the disqualifications and prosecutions of PML-N figures as a long-needed crackdown on graft.
PML-N officials also accuse the military of using its muscle to twist the arm of the media to restrict coverage of criticism of the judiciary and military by Sharif and his allies.
Sharif's younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, who has taken over the PML-N leadership, said on Thursday recent action by the anti-graft National Accountability Bureau and the judiciary had cast doubt over the election.
"All political parties must be given a level playing field," he said on Twitter.