Pakistan's former prime minister Khan tells court that recently held vote was stolen from his party

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan addressed court officials Thursday and said that parliamentary elections held earlier this year were stolen from his party, which he claimed is being victimized.

There was no immediate comment from the government about Khan’s allegation. Before his arrest, Khan had accused the Election Commission of Pakistan of converting the success of his party into a defeat. The commission has repeatedly denied allegations of fraud in the Feb. 8 elections.

“It was the biggest robbery that was committed on the public mandate,” Khan said in remarks to the Supreme Court via video link.

It was his second such appearance since he began serving a three-year sentence for corruption in August, and it was the first time Khan was heard in open court.

The hearing before the high court in Islamabad concerned Khan’s appeal in a case dealing with graft laws, which were changed in 2022 and which the former premier has said were aimed at keeping him behind bars.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party received the most seats in the Feb. 8 election but it lacked a simple majority to rule. Khan’s party refused to form a coalition government, paving the pay for his political rivals, including the party of another former premier, Nawaz Sharif, to form the government.

Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician who served as prime minister from 2018 was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022. However, he remains a popular opposition figure and millions of his supporters have been waiting to see him since August, when he was arrested after a court sentenced him for corruption.

His appearance before the court on Thursday was not livestreamed on a court order. It deprived Khan's millions of supporters of a chance to see him.

During the court hearing, Khan told the judges he had been held in solitary confinement at a prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where he is currently serving multiple prison terms.

Khan also complained that he was neither given the required material to prepare arguments nor allowed to meet with his lawyers. However, Chief Justice Qazi Faez Esa stopped him from making comments about the elections, saying it is a different matter and the court was hearing a case relating to changes in the graft laws.

The case was later adjourned for a week and the court directed authorities to allow Khan to meet with his lawyer.

Munir Ahmed, The Associated Press