A Pakistani court on Thursday extended former prime minister Imran Khan's pre-arrest bail in a terrorism case for a week, his lawyer said, shortly after the former premier appeared in court in person amid tight security.
Mr Khan's lawyer and political aide Babar Awan told Reuters that bail had been granted until September 1, after which they will apply for another extension.
Police filed charges against former cricket star Mr Khan over what they said was a threat in a speech last week when he spoke about police torture of an aide who faces sedition charges for inciting mutiny in the military.
The latest development comes days after the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif levelled terrorism charges against Mr Khan, escalating political tensions and drawing nationwide condemnation from his Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Mr Sharif replaced Mr Khan in April when he was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament. Legal experts say Mr Khan could face from several months to 14 years in prison, the equivalent of a life sentence if he is found guilty by the court during the trial which has not started yet against him on the terrorism charges.
Thursday’s bail extension was the latest twist in the saga between Pakistan’s government and Mr Khan, who has been holding mass rallies, seeking to return to power.
Mr Khan is also to appear before the Islamabad High Court on August 31 to face contempt proceedings on charges of threatening a judge. If he is convicted in this case, he will be disqualified from politics for life under Pakistani law. No convicted person can run for office in the country.
It is the second time that Mr Khan — a former cricket star turned Islamist politician — has faced contempt charges. After elections in 1993, he was summoned but pardoned by the Supreme Court after describing the conduct of the judiciary as “shameful” and saying it did not ensure free and fair elections.
Legal experts say Mr Khan has limited options and could avoid a conviction if he apologises for his remarks against Judge Zeba Chaudhry, when he told her to “get ready for it, we will also take action against you”.
Since his ousting Mr Khan has alleged — without providing evidence — that Pakistan’s powerful military took part in a US plot to unseat him.
Washington, the Pakistani military and the government of Mr Khan’s successor, Mr Sharif, have all denied the allegation.
Mr Khan came to power promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan.
His opponents contend he was elected with help from the military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history. Since his ousting, Mr Khan has also demanded early elections and vowed to oust Mr Sharif’s government through “pressure from the people”.