Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday tendered an apology in a contempt of court case, his defence lawyer said, a step back that could help him avoid disqualification from politics.
The court has deferred a decision on whether to indict Khan, said the lawyer, Faisal Chaudhry, adding the court had directed the politician to submit an unconditional apology in writing by Oct. 3.
The charges are related to a speech by Khan in which he allegedly threatened police and judicial officers last month after one of his close aides was denied bail in a sedition case.
"The court has appreciated the gesture," Chaudhry told Reuters, adding he expected charges would mostly be dropped after the apology.
The court was expected to release a written copy of its ruling in due course. Local media present inside the courtroom quoted Khan, saying, "I apologise if I crossed any red lines."
Three local journalists who were inside the courtroom also told Reuters that Khan had proffered the verbal apology.
"We will prepare and submit in writing an unconditional apology as sought by the court," Chaudhry said.
The high court was due to indict Khan, a move that could lead to his exclusion from politics if convicted.
A convicted politician is liable to be disqualified for at least five years under Pakistani laws.
The cricket-star turned politician has faced a barrage of legal woes since his ouster in a confidence vote in April by a united opposition led by his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Another of the critical cases against him is related to foreign funding for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which an inquiry by an election tribunal has found unlawful.
Analysts say Khan, who won election in 2018 with the backing of Pakistan's military, fell out of favour with the powerful generals in his last months in office.
Both Khan and military deny that version of events.
The former premier has led big rallies since his ouster, demanding snap polls, which the ruling coalition has rejected, saying elections will be held as scheduled later in 2023.
He has also called supporters to an anti-government country-wide protest campaign starting Saturday that will culminate in a march on the capital Islamabad.
Islamabad police brought up the charges after Khan's public remarks that he would not spare the police and a judicial officer, who had denied bail to his aide.
Khan and his legal team subsequently said the remarks were not meant to be a threat, but that he would take legal action against the officers.
The court had rejected the explanation. (Reuters)