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Pakistan: Imran Khan's appeal against jail trial in cipher case rejected by IHC ahead of indictment

A court established under the Official Secrets Act had announced on October 9 that Imran Khan and his deputy Shah Mahmood Qureshi would be indicted in the cipher case on October 17 (Tuesday).

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Updated on: October 17, 2023 17:25 IST
Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan's government was ousted in
Image Source : PTI Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan's government was ousted in 2022

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan suffered a blow after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday rejected his appeal against a jail trial in the cipher case, saying that the hearing was in his favour "in view of his security".

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq announced the decision on Monday in the cipher case registered under the Official Secrets Act and directed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief to approach the trial court if he had reservations over the matter, reported Geo News.

"The jail trial is in favour of the PTI chairman in view of his security," the court said while highlighting that he had repeatedly expressed his fears about his safety. A special court established under the Official Secrets Act is hearing the case against Imran Khan in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, where the ex-premier is currently imprisoned.

The High Court also did not find any ill will in the matter of a jail trial. An earlier hearing at the Adiala Jail had earlier announced that Imran and his deputy Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be indicted on October 17.

Meanwhile, Qureshi, the PTI vice-chairman, also filed a petition in the IHC challenging his jail trial and requesting the IHC for an annulment of the trial court's October 9 order where it said that Imran and he would be indicted in the cipher case. The date for the indictment was set after the copies of the challan, submitted to the court by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), were provided to the counsels of the accused.

"My jail trial continues without notification. The court should stop the jail trial and direct an open trial," Qureshi said in his petition. Imran's lawyer termed the cipher case as 'malicious' and accused the FIA of not providing any evidence.

The FIA submitted a chargesheet to the court declaring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and vice-president 'guilty' in the alleged disclosure of state secrets.

The FIA has requested the special court to start the trial and sentence them in accordance with the law. Additionally, PTI's former general secretary Asad Umar's name has not been added to the list of accused. Imran's former principal secretary Azam Khan has been named as a "strong witness" in the case.

The FIA also attached the transcript of the PTI chief and Qureshi's speech on March 27 when Imran brandished a letter in public, claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation that wanted to oust his government from power. Imran was ousted by a no-confidence motion in 2022.

What is the cipher case?

Last year, Imran Khan alleged that the US orchestrated a plan to remove him from office and brandished a cipher at a public rally to back his claims. The US has time and again denied such allegations, terming them "categorically false".

According to Khan's then-principal secretary Azam Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief was allegedly “euphoric” after seeing the cipher and decided to use it to build an “anti-establishment narrative” on the back of a "blunder" committed by the US. 

“The cipher copy was retained by Imran Khan and the next day (March 10) when he asked for it, Imran Khan replied that he has misplaced it,” the confession statement said, adding that the PTI chief did not return the original cipher despite repeated requests.

On September 30, 2022, the federal cabinet of Pakistan under Shehbaz Sharif took notice of the matter and constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leaks. The FIA summoned Khan, Umar and other leaders of the party, but the PTI chief secured a stay order against such summons.

ALSO READ | Pakistan: Jailed ex-PM Imran Khan, deputy Qureshi to be indicted in cipher case on Oct 17

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