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'Would rather face jail than death sentence'

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thursday reiterated that he will not write to the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, saying

Published: 15th March 2012 09:42 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:35 PM   |  A+A-

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thursday reiterated that he will not write to the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, saying he would rather go to prison.

Stating that he was the prime minister and "not a peon", Gilani said he was willing to face six-month's imprisonment for contempt of court, Geo News reported.

At a rally in Mailsi in Punjab province, the prime minister reiterated that writing the letter would be a violation of the constitution - an act of treason that carried the death sentence.

"If I write a letter it will be a violation of the constitution, which is treason and which carries the death sentence. If I don't write, I will be convicted for contempt, the punishment for which is six months' imprisonment. It's better to face six months' imprisonment than face the death sentence," Gilani was quoted as saying by Dawn News.

Gilani said he could leave politics but could not betray his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Accused of graft, Zardari had been granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate his return and, primarily, that of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto was assasinated in Rawalpindi Dec 27, 2007.

The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down as void in 2009.

The apex court warned the government of action if its ruling on the NRO was not implemented by Jan 10, 2012. It further ordered the government to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against Zardari.

On Jan 16, the court issued Gilani a contempt notice for not acting against Zardari.

Gilani has appeared for a court hearing in the contempt case. If convicted, the prime minister faces six months in prison and risks losing his parliamentary seat. He may also be slapped with a five-year ban from holding any public office.

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