Imran fails to get IHC relief on jail sentence

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ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday declined the immediate suspension of the sentence handed to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case.

A two-member bench, led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and including Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, heard the PTI chief’s appeal against his conviction, and issued notices to the relevant parties.

The PTI had challenged the punishment of three-year jail term and Rs100,000 fine awarded by an additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) of Islamabad in the case filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

After the announcement of the judgment on Saturday, the PTI chief was arrested from his Lahore residence on the same day, and taken to the Attock District Jail, where he has begun his prison term.

During the hearing in the IHC, lawyers Latif Khosa, Khawaja Haris, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, Babar Awan and others appeared in the court on behalf of the PTI chairman.

Khosa told the court that a lawyer of their team was detained by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for eight hours. Awan requested the court to issue an order that the lawyers should not be harassed.

The chief justice told the lawyers that he had been informed by Sher Afzal Marwat, another lawyer of the PTI chief’s legal team, about the matter, and added that he was looking into it.

Marwat said that he was sitting in the Rawalpindi Bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC), where he found out that the first information report (FIR) had been registered against him.

Khosa, while arguing on the punishment awarded to Imran by ADSJ Humayun Dilawar, said that the trial court judge sentenced him to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs100,000.

This was the maximum sentence in the case that the trial court had announced, Khosa said, adding that the PTI chief’s right to defence was also rejected and their application on that ruling was pending before the IHC.

“Although the matter of the right to defence was pending, the decision was given. In fact, the judge pronounced the maximum sentence of three years and a fine of Rs100,000,” he added. “Action should be taken against such a judge.”

Khosa further said that the ADSJ should have waited for the completion of the proceedings in the high court. It had never happened that a case was in the high court and a decision was given by a lower court, he continued.

Khosa requested the court to suspend the punishment awarded to the PTI chairman and order his release. He pointed out that any sentence to three-years was counted as a short sentence, therefore, it should be suspended.

However, the bench summoned the case record from the trial court and issued notices to relevant parties for their replies. The bench observed that it would hear the ECP also.

On that Khosa requested the court to conduct further hearing on Thursday (today). However, the chief justice replied that he would not be available on Thursday (today).

Coming to rostrum next, Khawaja Haris pleaded to the bench that the trial court conducted the hearing of the case on a daily basis. He also told the bench that the trial court passed the judgment without hearing his arguments.

He said that he reached the trial court at 12:15, where he was told that the verdict would be delivered at 12:30. Haris added that when the judge came for announcing the judgment, he was at the rostrum.

“I went to the judge but he [the judge] said that he won’t listen to me. Shouldn’t the court have heard us? Can the verdict be pronounced without hearing the accused and his lawyer?”

The lawyer argued that the judge had been conducting the hearing in such a way that “we used to come to the high court every day” to challenge the order.

“We were running a trial, on the one hand, and challenging it, on the other.”

What would be the significance of a decision if it was written without hearing the defence lawyer, Haris raised the question. He told the court that after six months, this bench would also say that the decision was given without hearing the lawyer.

On this occasion, Khawaja Haris also raised the issue of the alleged detention of his clerk. He said that his clerk was allegedly harassed in the Supreme Court and the high court. He added that he had also filed an application in the apex court.

Requesting for suspension of the PTI chief’s sentence, Haris said that his [Imran’s] bail in other cases could be cancelled. The chief justice said it had been decided in Asif Zardari’s case that arrest in one case didn’t mean arrest in other cases.

On the insistence of the PTI’s lawyers that the case should be fixed for hearing on Thursday (today), the chief justice said that such hearing would not happen but assured the lawyer that it would not be delayed beyond the court holidays.

The case would be taken up in four or five days, the chief justice said, adding that the matters of suspension of sentence and the bail cases were scheduled during judges’ vacations.

Later, the hearing was adjourned.Jail facilitiesChief Justice Amir Farooq also heard a separate request from the PTI chairman for facilities in the jail. Chief Justice Farooq directed that the PTI chief should be provided the facilities as per the Jail Manual.

Chairman PTI’s lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat argued that he went to Attock Jail on Tuesday on the court order but he was not allowed to meet his client. Marwat said that PTI chairman had been kept in a 9×5 cell.

He added that there was no reason to keep the PTI chairman in Attock Jail. The chief justice inquired that who would decide about sending the PTI chief to another jail.

The court issued notices and adjourned the hearing till August 11.

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