ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on former prime minister Imran Khan’s plea against his prison trial in a case involving the alleged mishandling a confidential diplomatic cable called cipher and divulging some of its contents, saying it would issue a short order later today.
A special court, presided by an anti-terrorism judge, was formed on August 21 under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, to adjudicate the matter by holding in-camera proceedings. The court carried out its first hearing on August 30 in a high-security prison in Punjab’s Attock district where Khan was incarcerated after being convicted in a separate case related to the illegal sale of state gifts.
A day before the cipher case hearing, a notification was issued by the law ministry, saying that the interior ministry had apprised it of “security concerns” related to the trial and pointing out it had “no objection” for the proceedings to be held in prison.
Khan’s lawyers opposed the decision and submitted a request for an open hearing amid concerns that their client might not get justice if his trial was carried out in prison. Last month, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party also took the matter to the Islamabad High
Court (IHC) where its plea was turned down by Chief Justice Aamir Farooq who said there was no malice behind the government’s decision to hold the jail trial.
This prompted Khan’s legal team to file an intra-court appeal against the decision which led to a stay order last week. However, the court reserved its verdict during its hearing today, saying it would issue a short order in the evening.
“Verdict reserved,” Naeem Haider Panjutha, the former prime minister’s spokesperson on legal affairs, announced on social media.
Prior to that, he told his followers on X, formerly Twitter, that the hearing of the case had started in the Islamabad High Court, adding “it seems that the decision will come today.”
Khan’s intra-court appeal is being heard by Justices Mian Gul Hassan and Saman Riffat Imtiaz.
Both judges were informed by Khan’s lawyer, Salman Akram Raja, that the authorities had not followed the right procedure to carry out the prison trial.
The diplomatic cable at the heart of the case was first mentioned by the former prime minister in March 2022 when he waved a letter at a public rally and claimed it was a cipher from a foreign nation calling for the end of his government, days before his removal from office.
The diplomatic dispatch had been scribbled by Pakistan’s then envoy to Washington after a conversation with a US State Department official who allegedly expressed objections to Khan’s policies and suggested that his continuity in office could strain bilateral relations between the two states.
Last week, the Islamabad High Court had sought details of the circumstances that led to the decision of holding the prison trial before adjourning its proceedings.