Pakistani police press charges of terrorism against former Prime Minister Khan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Police in the Pakistani capital filed charges Sunday against former prime minister Imran Khan, 17 of his aides and dozens of supporters, accusing them of terrorism and several other crimes after followers of the ousted premier clashed with security forces in Islamabad the previous day.

For hours on Saturday, Khan’s followers clashed with police outside a courthouse where the former prime minister was due to appear in a corruption case. Riot police brandished batons and threw tear gas while Khan’s supporters threw firebombs and stones at the officers.

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

Khan never appeared in court to face charges of selling state gifts received while in office and hiding assets.

In addition to Khan, the case filed Sunday also accuses former and current lawmakers, former ministers, a former National Assembly speaker and dozens of Khan’s supporters. Allegations include terrorism, hindering police officers from performing their duties, attacking police, injuring officers and threatening their lives.

The developments are the latest involving increased violence surrounding the 70-year-old Khan, who was ousted in a vote of no confidence in Parliament last April. The former cricket star turned Islamist politician has since claimed – without offering 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 flared again outside Khan’s home in the eastern city of Lahore, where officers and Khan’s supporters clashed for two consecutive days in a standoff early last week after the Police arrived in the upscale neighborhood to arrest Khan.

Amid tear gas and clashes, police raided Khan’s residence and later said they had arrested 61 suspects and seized Molotov cocktails, weapons and ammunition. Khan was not at home, having traveled to Islamabad for his court appearance. After he failed to appear in court, the judge adjourned the hearing to March 30.

In a recorded video message broadcast on Sunday, Khan blamed police for his failure to appear in court on Saturday, saying he never left his vehicle as police fired tear gas at his convoy and supporters.

Offering nothing in support of his claim, Khan said his opponents were hell-bent on jailing 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 all the drama just to avoid” the courts.

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