A Pakistan high court on Thursday halted until January 11 the ongoing trial of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan and his close aide ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case for allegedly leaking state secrets and violating the laws of the country.
The Islamabad High Court judge, Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb, issued the order while hearing the petition of 71-year-old Khan against an in-camera trial going in the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi.
The Special Court started fresh proceedings against the accused earlier this month and indicted them on December 13 after the IHC annulled previous proceedings, including the indictment of October 23 by declaring that the proper procedure was not adopted for the jail trial.
The new trial followed after correcting the anomalies highlighted by the high court while ensuring open trial in the presence of the media. However, the court later on accepted the government plea for in-camera proceedings due to the sensitivity of the matter.
During the hearing, the court asked why an in-camera trial was being conducted when it had ordered an open trial. “This court had ordered that an open trial should be held, why are in-camera proceedings being held?” the judge asked.
Later the court issued notices to the Federal Investigation Agency and stayed the trial until January 11.
The cipher case pertains to the alleged mishandling of a diplomatic document sent by the Pakistan embassy in March last year. The Federal Investigation Agency filed a case on August 15 that the accused violated the secret laws of the country while trying to exploit the cable for political purposes.
The FIA on September 30 filed the charge sheet against Khan and Qureshi who signed its copies.
The FIA invoked in the charge sheet sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act which may lead to a death sentence, or two to 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted.
Khan and Qureshi, who had claimed that the cable contained a threat from the United States to topple the PTI’s government, have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Khan was ousted through a vote of no-confidence in April 2022. More than 150 cases have been registered against him since his ouster from power.