Published Oct 23, 2023 at 7:18 PM IST

Fmr Pakistan PM Imran Khan Indicted In Cipher Case

A Pakistani court on Monday indicted Imran Khan on charges of revealing official secrets after his 2022 ouster from office in another dramatic move against the former prime minister who could now face a possible death sentence and will likely be unable to run in parliamentary elections in January.

Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a close aide and the deputy leader of Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, will go on trial this week at a high-security prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The charge of revealing state secrets carries a sentence ranging from life in prison to the death penalty, according to Umair Niazi, one of Khan’s defense lawyers. Niazi, however, said he was confident Khan and Qureshi would be acquitted as they had done “nothing wrong."

The trial starts on Friday and both Khan and Qureshi have denied the charges against them. The hearings will take place before a special court behind closed doors at the Adiyala Prison, where Khan is being held. Khan’s lawyers have objected to the closed-door trial.

The case is related to Khan’s speech and waving of a confidential diplomatic letter at a rally after his ouster in a no-confidence vote in parliament in 2022. The document — dubbed Cipher — has not been made public by either the government or Khan’s lawyers but was apparently diplomatic correspondence between the Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad

At the time, Khan held up the alleged letter, claiming it was proof that he was being threatened and that his ouster was a U.S. conspiracy, allegedly executed by the military and the government in Pakistan. Washington and Pakistani officials have denied the claim.

Another defense lawyer for Khan, Naeem Panjutha, claimed on Monday that the former premier and Qureshi were “indicted in a hurry” with the intention of convicting the popular opposition leader quickly

Khan is facing more than 150 cases, including charges from contempt of court to terrorism and inciting violence, and was sentenced to three years for corruption in early August. Subsequently, an Islamabad High Court suspended that sentence in what amounted to a legal victory for Khan. The victory was short-lived as he was re-arrested later in August in the Cipher case.

For now, Khan is not eligible to run for office in the January elections on two counts. He would have to be cleared of corruption charges in the graft case and secondly, the Cipher case charges would have to be either dropped or he would also be cleared of them.

Published October 23rd, 2023 at 19:18 IST

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