Imran, Qureshi may be indicted in cipher case next week

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ISLAMABAD: The Special Court (Official Secrets Act) seized with the cipher case against former prime minister Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is likely to indict both Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders on Oct 9, it emerged during their trial behind bars on Wednesday.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which had submitted the challan to the court last month, declared both leaders as principal accused in the case, registered under Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act for disclosing the contents of classified diplomatic cable and misplacing the same.

When the matter came up before Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain in Adiala Jail, the prosecution distributed copies of the challan among the defence counsel.

Sources in the legal team of Imran Khan said he briefly held a meeting with Mr Qureshi before the commencement of the court proceeding that continued for about an hour.

According to a lawyer who witnessed the proceeding, when the FIA sought in-camera proceedings of the case, the judge remarked that the trial would start only after framing of charges against the suspects while the proceedings were being conducted inside the Adiala Jail.

The court adjourned the proceedings till Oct 9 when it is likely to indict the PTI leaders.

On the other hand, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamer Farooq rejected FIA’s request for an in-camera hearing of their post-arrest bail petitions in cipher case.

The court, however, ruled that the prosecution may seek in-camera proceedings of a discussion on any classified document.

While citing the case of journalist Zahid Malik who authored a book on Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and faced trial under the Official Secrets Act, Advocate Niazullah Niazi, counsel for Imran Khan, said the court had ruled against in-camera proceedings of the case.

Also, the PTI legal team filed a petition before the IHC, challenging the law ministry’s authority to issue a notification for their trial in Adiala Jail. The party claimed the notification was not binding on the judge, as it was issued without any legal backing. The petition requested the court to rule against the law ministry’s authority of issuing such notification.

No longer secret

Calling the possible in-camera trial of Imran Khan in the cipher case ‘a brutal murder of justice’, PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan claimed the secret document had been declassified by the entire cabinet and the information contained in the communication could no longer be dubbed ‘secret’.

“If, as is claimed, unimpeachable evidence is available against the alleged ‘criminals’, what are the prosecution and their patrons afraid of by conducting an open trial so that the people of this country could also ascertain the reality of this monstrous drama?”

“The fact that the cipher had been declassified by the entire cabinet was enough to drive a nail in the artificial balloon of this case as the information contained in the communication could no longer be dubbed as ‘secret’ after that,” he maintained.

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