ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's Supreme Court charged the embattled prime minister with contempt of court on Monday for his refusal to re-open old corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, complicating the country's political crisis.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that if he was convicted he would be forced to step down. He could also face up to six months in jail.
However, the case - which has raised tension between Pakistan's civilian leaders and the Supreme Court - is expected to drag on and paralyze decision-making.
"You, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, have willfully disobeyed the direction of this court," said Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, the head of the seven-judge bench hearing the case. "Thereby you have committed contempt of court ... and you are to be tried."
The judge asked for a plea and Gilani answered that he was not guilty. Proceedings will start on February 16 when the prosecution will submit its evidence.