IHC orders stay on in-prison trial in cypher case

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued directives on Tuesday to stay proceedings on the cypher case against ousted premier Imran Khan and former federal minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The trial court was due to hold cross-examination of prosecution witnesses today.

A divisional bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Riffat Imtiaz adjourned till November 16 the hearing on Imran’s intra-court appeal against the ongoing in-prison trial being conducted by a special court formed under the Official Secrets Act.

Moreover, the court summoned all records pertaining to proceedings conducted in the trial thus far, as well as reasons for conducting it in-prison.

The court issued directives to immediately suspend proceedings in the cypher case while rejecting the attorney general of Pakistan’s (AGP) plea against the same.

Read Govt fails to produce Imran before ECP

During the hearing, Justice Miangul Hassan observed that allowing a few family members of the accused to attend the proceedings was not tantamount to an open court trial.

The way the accused were indicted in the case cannot be considered as an open court proceeding either, he added.

Earlier, AGP Mansoor Awan had informed the court about proceedings held in-prison thus far. The AGP apprised that the federal cabinet had permitted an in-prison trial for the case and a notification was issued regarding the same.

Justice Aurangzeb remarked that the divisional bench would examine the notification while observing that conducting an in-prison trial was an anomaly.

The court inquired as to what circumstances require an in-prison trial. To this, AGP Awan replied that he would submit all relevant documents from concerned departments before the court.

There are several questions that require answers, remarked Justice Aurangzeb. What about the proceedings conducted prior to the caretaker federal cabinet’s approval of an in-prison trial two days ago, he asked.

Justice Aurangzeb further observed that anti-terrorism court judges are appointed through the executive. The chief justice was consulted but this process was initiated and completed by the executive.

He referred to the case against former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi which was tried in-prison but media persons and foreign journalists, including those affiliated with BBC, were permitted to attend proceedings.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairperson Imran and party leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi remain incarcerated in Adiala jail, where the trial was being conducted.

A day earlier, the anti-graft watchdog sought implementation of an Islamabad accountability court’s arrest warrants against the PTI chief in the Toshakhana and £190m settlement cases.

Read more Imran arrested in gifts, £190m scam cases

Imran is being held under judicial custody in connection with the cypher case in Adiala jail.

The cypher case pertains to a diplomatic cable which allegedly went missing from Imran’s possession. The PTI claims that the cypher contained veiled threats by the United States calling for his removal from office and the ouster of his government.

Imran was removed from the Prime Minister’s Office in April 2022 through a vote of no-confidence.

At the last hearing of the cypher case, the special court had granted permission to five family members each of Imran and Qureshi to attend proceedings held inside Adiala jail.

Both the accused have been indicted and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has submitted a list of 28 prosecution witnesses before the trial court. The special court has recorded the statements of three prosecution witnesses associated with the foreign ministry thus far.

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