• Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

IHC halts Imran Khan’s in-camera trial till Jan 11

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Justice Aurangzeb issues stay order on PTI founder’s plea challenging his indictment, trial in state secrets case

Former prime minister Imran Khan. —Agencies
Former prime minister Imran Khan. —Agencies
  • Relief for PTI founder Imran Khan in cipher case.
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  • Lawyer says legal procedure wasn’t followed.

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday approved Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan’s petition to halt his trial in cipher case till January 11, 2024.

IHC’s Justice Miangul Hassan issued the order on the PTI founder’s appeals wherein he challenged his indictment, proceedings and gag order in the cipher case by the special court established under Official Secrets Act.

Earlier during the hearing of the case, Justice Aurangzeb rejected  PTI chief’s plea to grant a stay on the trial, stating that the court would first serve notices before issuing an order.

In this regard, the IHC issued notice to the federation and asked Khan’s lawyer Usman Gul to submit all necessary documents related to the cipher trial at the next hearing.

Highlighting the alleged irregularities in the cipher case, the PTI counsel contended in the court that a first information report (FIR) was lodged before the filing of a complaint.

The judge asked the PTI founder’s lawyer what the point of the petition was. “The point is that the legal procedure was not completed before the indictment,” said the lawyer, responding to the judge.

He said that a legally authorised official can file a complaint directly in court.

“You are saying that an authorised officer can file a complaint directly,” asked the judge.

At this, the lawyer requested that the IHC direct the trial court to conduct the hearing of the case after five or six days. “The court can complete the trial in the meantime,” he mentioned.

“How many witness statements have been completed so far?” the judge questioned.

To which, the lawyer responded by saying that statements of 25 witnesses have been recorded, while cross-examination of three has been completed out of the total 27 witnesses.

The cipher trial is being conducted on a daily basis, the PTI counsel told the court.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi received the notice in the courtroom.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan also appeared in the court and informed that the statements of 25 witnesses have been recorded in the cipher trial.

PTI lawyer Salman Akram Raja, who joined the hearing via videolink, said statements of many witnesses were recorded after the judgment of this court.

Judge Aurangzeb said: “I can’t ignore the court’s previous proceedings regarding the cipher case. I am concerned about the way the cipher trial is being conducted.”

The court acknowledged that the trial court judge conducted the hearing early because he was ordered to do so.

Expressing concerns over the in-camera trial, the IHC judge observed that the special court judge should have ordered conducting an open trial on every hearing of the case.

To which, the AGP told the court that media is allowed to cover the trial proceedings.

“Was the cross-examination of witnesses carried out in the presence of the media,” Justice Aurangzeb inquired.

The AGP said the statements of three witnesses were related to the secret code of the diplomatic cable, adding that the foreign secretary’s statement will also be recorded in-camera.

The judge observed that the cipher trial was being conducted in haste, and termed the trial the first of its kind.

“The importance of open hearings is not clear to the special court judge, nor to the prosecutors,” the court maintained.

The court added that it has to be seen whether the right to a fair trial under Article 10-A is granted in such cases or not.

“What facts were [presented] before the Supreme Court when bail was granted?” the IHC judge asked.

There were statements from 13 witnesses before the SC, the AGP responded. “The Supreme Court was looking into the bail matter,” he added.

“This clarifies [my statement],” Justice Aurangazeb said.

The apex court said that there is not enough material before them to deny bail, the IHC judge added.

Both Khan and his party’s Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi were granted post-arrest bail in the cipher case by the Supreme Court on December 22, 2023.

Earlier on December 13, the PTI founder and vice-chairman were indicted in the cipher case again by the special court after the IHC declared their jail trial null and void.

Both politicians have pleaded not guilty to their involvement in the offence related to the alleged misuse of diplomatic cable for political purposes.

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