Three top Pakistani cricketers were jailed Thursday after being convicted of plotting to cheat and to take bribes in a match against England last summer, in a scandal that rocked the international sport.
Former national team captain Salman Butt was sentenced to 30 months and bowler Mohammad Asif to a year in prison after they were found guilty by a London court Tuesday.
Fellow bowler Mohammad Amir, a rising star in the sport at the age of 19, was given a six-month jail term, having pleaded guilty.
A fourth man, London-based businessman Mazhar Majeed, was jailed for two years and eight months for his role as an agent who arranged the betting scam. He had also pleaded guilty.
All will serve half of their sentences before being eligible for parole.
The Pakistanis were accused of spot fixing, or rigging parts of a test match.
The trial and sentencing have been closely watched in Pakistan, where cricket is a hugely popular sport.
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The Pakistan Cricket Board, the sport’s national governing body, said the trio’s conviction and sentencing was “a sad day for Pakistan cricket.”
Spokesman Nadeem Sarwar said in a statement: “Instead of having pride in playing for their country, these players chose to disappoint their supporters, damage the image of their country and bring the noble game of cricket into disrepute. There is little sympathy in Pakistan for the sorry pass they have come to.”
He said the board was determined to stamp out corrupt behavior within cricket and will introduce measures to do that.
These include better training in the game’s rules and ethics for players, alongside stricter monitoring, a strengthened code of conduct for agents and others involved in the game and a recommendation to the government to pass a law making corruption in sport a criminal offense.
Imran Khan, former cricketer turned politician, told domestic channel Geo TV after the sentencing: “For Pakistan and for Pakistani cricket this is extremely detrimental.
“This will bring shame to our country and the families of the cricketers. I can’t imagine what the family is going through. Right now this is bad for all of us.”
He said he felt special sympathy for Amir, the youngest, who had probably gotten involved after seeing the others getting away with match fixing.
Asif’s father also appeared on Geo TV, saying: “Jails are made for men, so what if my son is sent there.”
He accused unspecified foreign governments of being behind his son’s conviction, but he said the family would not starve as a result.
Butt’s sister, Rubab Butt, also told reporters her brother was innocent.
“My brother didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “There has been no evidence presented to us about his guilt and the decision was wrong, we disagree with it. My brother is innocent.”
Butt and Asif had denied the charges.
Before the sentencing, Amir expressed remorse in a statement read by his lawyer.
“First I want to apologize to Pakistan and to everyone that cricket is important to,” he said. “I do know how much damage this has done to the game, a game which I love more than anything else in the world.
“I did decide many months ago that I wanted to admit that I deliberately threw two no-balls (fouls) at the Lord’s Test last summer. But I know this was very late, and I want to apologize for not saying it before. I didn’t find the courage to do it at the beginning, and I know very well that made everything much more difficult.”
The Pakistanis are among the lowest-paid of the main cricket nations, partly due to the loss of much-needed revenue from hosting tours. International teams have turned down offers to play in Pakistan after a 2009 terrorist attack on the touring Sri Lankan team in Lahore.