Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court yesterday, after his arrest on corruption charges this week sparked deadly clashes before being declared illegal.
"The court has granted Imran Khan two weeks interim bail and has directed the authorities not to arrest him in the (graft) case," Khan's lawyer Khawaja Harris told reporters.
The High Court also ruled that Khan, who remained on the court premises, could not be arrested before Monday in any other case registered against him, including charges related to the violent riots ignited by his detention this week, said another one of his lawyers, Tahir Malik.
"The head of the country's largest party was abducted, kidnapped from the high court, and in front of the entire nation," Khan told AFP from the courtroom.
"They treated me like a terrorist, this had to have a reaction," he said of the protests that followed.
Khan has become tangled in a slew of legal allegations -- a frequent hazard for opposition figures in Pakistan -- since he was ousted from power last April and launched a campaign of defiance against the military.
General elections are due no later than October, and the former cricket star has accused the shaky incumbent coalition government of supplanting him in cahoots with top generals.
The 70-year-old has also made explosive claims that they puppeteered a November assassination attempt which saw him shot in the leg as he campaigned for snap polls.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has vowed to re-arrest Khan, who remains wildly popular, and police fired tear gas on protestors who marched towards the High Court.
Khan was manhandled into custody by paramilitary troops at the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday, but the Supreme Court later declared the arrest unlawful and demanded the process be "backtracked".
Yesterday, he returned in a secure convoy and walked into the building flanked by dozens of police and paramilitaries.
"Khan, your devotees are countless," lawyers for his party gathered in front of the court chanted as the ousted leader raised a fist above his head.
Khan was arrested under the orders of Pakistan's top graft agency as he arrived for a routine court appearance in the capital.
Two days of chaos followed, with several thousand of his supporters rampaging through cities across the country in protest, setting fire to buildings and blocking roads.
At least nine people died in the unrest, police and hospitals said.
Hundreds of police officers were injured and more than 4,000 people arrested, mostly in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, according to authorities.
On Thursday, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the arrest was unlawful because it took place on court premises, where Khan had intended to file a bail application.
"Your arrest was invalid, so the whole process needs to be backtracked," he told Khan.
Khan remained in the bench's custody overnight under police protection for his own safety until he arrived at the Islamabad High Court, where hundreds of security forces were deployed and nearby roads shut.
Islamabad police had issued an emergency order banning all gatherings in the capital city after Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called for supporters to come together.
Faisal Hussain Chaudhry, a lawyer for Khan, told reporters that further arrests of senior PTI leaders overnight brought the total number to 10.
"The country needs peace but such steps by the government are not helpful," he said.-AFP