ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court has temporarily halted the in-camera trial of the cipher case until January 11, 2024, following a plea from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan.
Initially, the court rejected Khan’s request for a stay on the in-camera proceedings related to the cipher case. Khan, who remains incarcerated, petitioned against his indictment and the trial’s proceedings under the Official Secrets Act.
However, the court, led by Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, declined to grant an immediate stay, opting instead to issue notices before making any definitive rulings.
As part of the ongoing legal process, the court has summoned the federation and requested Khan’s lawyer, Usman Gul, to furnish all pertinent documents connected to the cipher trial at the upcoming hearing. PTI’s counsel raised objections about procedural irregularities, highlighting that a complaint had been lodged before the filing of a formal complaint or First Information Report (FIR).
During the hearing, the PTI founder’s lawyer emphasized that legal protocols weren’t followed prior to the indictment. Discussions also ensued regarding the possibility of an authorized official directly filing a complaint in court. The lawyer further requested the IHC to direct the trial court to delay the hearing for five or six days to ensure completion of the trial process.
The court learned that statements from 25 witnesses have been recorded, with three having undergone cross-examination out of a total of 27 witnesses. Concerns were expressed about the expeditious nature of the trial, which is being conducted daily. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Prosecutor and Attorney General for Pakistan both provided updates on the progress of witness statements and trial procedures.
The judge expressed reservations about the way the cipher trial was being expedited and raised concerns about the lack of open hearings. Notably, the court underscored the importance of ensuring the right to a fair trial under Article 10-A and questioned the handling of the case in relation to bail granted by the Supreme Court.
Imran Khan and PTI’s Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi were granted post-arrest bail in the cipher case by the Supreme Court on December 22, 2023. Both were directed to submit a surety bond of Rs1 million each.
The indictment in the cipher case, related to the alleged misuse of diplomatic cables for political purposes, took place on December 13, after the Islamabad High Court declared their jail trial null and void under the Official Secrets Act 2023. Both politicians have pleaded not guilty to these charges.