ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court, on Tuesday, granted a stay order on the imprisonment trial of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan in the cipher case.
This decision came forth during the hearing of an intra-court appeal filed by Imran Khan himself, requesting a suspension of his jail trial in the cipher case. Consequently, the court directed a halt to the trial taking place in jail.
Moreover, the IHC postponed the hearing on the intra-court appeal against the jail trial until November 16. The session was overseen by a two-member bench comprising Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Riffat Imtiaz.
In his petition, Khan contested the appointment of Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain to preside over the case under the special court established under the Official Secret Act 2023, alongside the jail trial.
Representing the state, Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan appeared in court, while Khan was represented by lawyer Salman Akram Raja.
The judge commented, “Allowing a few family members to attend the hearing does not equate to an open court hearing,” highlighting concerns about the nature of the indictment and its compliance with the standards of an open court proceeding.
AGP Awan informed the court during the hearing that the federal cabinet had sanctioned the jail trial of the cipher case, ensuring submission of the cabinet’s notification approving the prison trial.
The judge emphasized that all trials should occur in an open court, and conducting the trial in jail would be an exceptional circumstance rather than an ordinary one.
Khan’s counsel, Raja, disclosed that five witnesses remain in the jail to provide their statements.
Addressing the situation, the judge raised several questions, questioning the circumstances leading to the decision for a jail trial, the federal cabinet’s approval, and the status of court proceedings preceding the approval.
Additionally, the judge referred to past cases, mentioning the jail trial of Indira Gandhi’s murder case, where journalists were allowed to cover the proceedings.
Previously, Khan had petitioned against the jail trial, which was dismissed by the court’s single bench on October 16, stating no apparent ill intent behind conducting the jail trial. The court advised Khan to approach the trial court if concerns persisted.
Consequently, Khan filed an intra-court appeal against the single bench’s decision. In August of the same year, Khan and Qureshi were implicated under the Official Secrets Act 1923 in the cipher case after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) invoked Section 5 of the said law.
The diplomatic cable reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession, purportedly containing a threat from the United States to overthrow the PTI’s government. Both Khan and Qureshi have been indicted by the special court and are presently detained in Adiala jail concerning the cipher case.