A top court in Pakistan has announced that former Prime Minister Imran Khan will be indicted later this month on a contempt of court charge, local media reported after Khan expressed regret about disparaging comments he made about police and judges but failed to apologize.
The five-member bench, led by the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court, said on September 8 that Khan will be indicted on September 22, Dawn News reported.
Khan is accused of threatening a female judge who had ruled against one of his close aides on treason charges, putting her life in danger.
In an emotional speech last month at a rally in Islamabad, Khan threatened Judge Zeba Chaudhry for allowing police to interrogate Shahbaz Gill, the chief of staff of Khan’s Tehrik-e Insaf party.
Gill was arrested in August and charged with treason over remarks during a show on the private ARY TV station, in which he urged soldiers and officers to disobey “illegal” orders from their leaders.
The former prime minister was charged after he vowed to sue police officers and the judge, and alleged that the aide had been tortured after his arrest.
The 69-year-old populist and former cricketer was ousted from office in April when he lost a confidence vote. Since then Khan has held mass rallies across Pakistan criticizing Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif's government and pushing for new elections.
Sharif has rejected the demand, saying the vote should take place as scheduled in 2023.
Prior to the court's decision, Khan acknowledged in a statement submitted to the Islamabad High Court that he "regrets" disparaging comments about police and judges. Khan asked the court to accept his "explanation" and "beseeched" its "forgiveness," but his statement stopped short of an outright apology.
"The respondent takes this opportunity to express his deep regrets over his unintentional utterances during the course of his speech," Khan said in a formal reply, according to a copy obtained by AFP.
"Imran Khan's response was not satisfactory," state media quoted the chief justice of the court as saying.
Khan and his team appear determined to continue fighting in the courts, though he risks automatic disqualification from politics if convicted.
“We will exercise our right of the legal fight," said Fawad Chaudhry, a leader in Khan's party.
Iftikhar Durrani, Khan's political adviser, added: “We were expecting that the court will accept Imran Khan's explanation, as he had clarified that he never meant to issue any threat" against the judge.
Khan also faces related terrorism charges that risk further dividing the beleaguered South Asian country.
He must appear before an Anti-Terrorism Court on September 9, when his bail expires in a separate case regarding the same comments about the judge.