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Pak court rejects Imran Khan's petition challenging his indictment in cipher case

Islamabad: In a major setback to Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, the Islamabad High Court on Thursday rejected his petition challenging his indictment by a special court on charges of leaking state secrets and violating the laws of the country.

Chief Justice Aamer Farooq disposed of 71-year-old Khan’s plea but directed that he be provided a ‘fair trial’, Dawn newspaper reported.

Khan and his close ally ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, 67, were indicted by the special court judge on Monday during the hearing held in the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi on charges of leaking state secrets.

Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), through his lawyer Salman Safdar, had filed the petition in the IHC on Wednesday, urging the court to declare the “hasty exercise” of framing of charges to be “illegal, unlawful and against the settled principles of the Code of Criminal Procedure”.

The petition was taken up by the IHC CJ on Thursday.

In the same case, the decision on Khan’s bail application will be announced on Friday. The court has reserved its decision after hearing the arguments on the bail application, Geo News reported.

Khan was arrested in August after a case was filed against him for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act by disclosing a secret diplomatic cable (cipher) sent by the country’s embassy in Washington in March last year.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on September 30 filed the charge sheet against Khan and Qureshi who signed its copies.

The FIA invoked in the charge sheet sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act which may lead to a death sentence, or two to 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted.

After the indictment where the two pleaded not guilty, the court announced the formal trial on October 27 by summoning witnesses.

Khan, who served as prime minister of Pakistan from August 2018 to April 2022, is accused of ‘misuse the contents of the cipher’ to build a narrative that his government was ousted due to a foreign conspiracy hatched by the US, a charge denied by Washington.

The charge sheet added that Qureshi “aided and abetted” Khan and therefore was liable for the act in the same manner.

Khan and several of his party leaders have been facing numerous cases since the ouster of the party from power in April 2022 and later in the wake of the May 9 violence.

More than 150 cases have been registered against Khan since his ouster from power in April last year.

Khan was ousted through a vote of no-confidence in April 2022. He was incarcerated on August 5 this year, after an Islamabad court sentenced him to three years in prison in the Toshakhana case. The PTI chief was lodged in the Attock District Jail to serve his prison term.

Later, his sentence was suspended by the Islamabad High Court, but then he was arrested in the cipher case and remained in the Attock jail on judicial remand. He was later shifted to Adiala jail.

(Published 26 October 2023, 15:55 IST)

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