"According to the law we have seven days to file the appeal" said Khawaja Sultan, one of Sharif's lawyers. "But we expect we will file it with the Sindh High Court either on Monday or Tuesday."
Sharif was sentenced Thursday to two life terms to run concurrently on charges of hijacking and terrorism. He was acquitted of charges of attempted murder and kidnapping. Sharif's co-defendants, including his younger brother Shahbaz, were acquitted on all charges. Sharif pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The prosecution has said it will appeal the acquittals as well as the life sentence, demanding instead the death penalty. The prosecution has 15 days to file its appeal.
The Sindh provincial Attorney General Raja Quereshi, who led the prosecution team, says the antiterrorist court that tried Sharif is required by law to hand down the maximum punishment, which in the case of hijacking is death.
But Judge Rehmetullah Hussein Jaffri told the court Thursday that the lesser sentence was given because there are worse cases of hijacking than the incident for which he held Sharif responsible. He said Sharif's actions, though wrong, were taken in the heat of the moment.
Sharif is said to have shut down the Karachi International Airport on Oct. 12, the day the army took power in Pakistan to prevent a commercial airliner with returning army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf from landing there. Fire trucks blocked the runway and the airport lights were shut off.
During the standoff, the military was seizing power from Sharif to protest his decision to dismiss Musharraf and replace him with a junior general.
The aircraft, with 198 passengers and crew on board, was allowed to land when the army took control but by the time it touched down on the runway it had barely seven minutes of fuel remaining. At the time the army said Sharif attempted to kill the army chief.
Thursday's conviction and life sentence met with mixed reaction in Pakistan. Sharif's supporters appeared relieved that he was not given the death penalty, but most people seemed unfazed.
There were no demonstrations of significance. Four people demonstrating outside the courthouse in Karachi were quickly arrested.
Sharif was elected in 1997 with a two-thirds majority. But his government quickly became embroiled in confrontations with Pakistani institutions, like the judiciary and the presidency. When the army took over there was no public outcry and few people in Pakistan appear anxious for elections anytime soon, demanding the army first clean up the country's deeply corrupt political system.
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