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Police barred from arresting Imran Khan

A Pakistani court has barred police from arresting former prime minister Imran Khan through the end of the month, officials say.

Khan is accused of making verbal threats to police officers and a judge in a speech at a rally over the weekend.

The latest development comes days after the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif levelled terrorism charges against Khan, escalating political tensions and drawing nationwide condemnation from his Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

Earlier on Thursday, Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan requested the court grant bail to Khan, who is the country’s popular opposition leader.

Arriving at court, Khan was asked to walk toward the courtroom as ordinary suspects do. The court agreed to extend Khan’s protection from arrest until September 1.

Hundreds of Khan’s supporters gathered outside the court building, chanting slogans against Sharif’s government.

Demonstrators said Khan is being politically victimised by Sharif’s government. Later, Khan left the court for his home on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Sharif replaced Khan in April when he was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Legal experts say 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.

Thursday’s appearance of Khan before an anti-terrorism tribunal amid tight security was the latest development in the saga between Pakistan’s government and Khan, who has been holding mass rallies, seeking to return to power.

Khan is also to appear before the Islamabad High Court on August 31 to face contempt proceedings on charges of threatening a judge.

His conviction, in this case, will mean his disqualification from politics for life under Pakistani law. No convicted person can run for office.

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