Cipher Case Trial
On Thursday, the Islamabad High Court issued a stay, delaying the in-camera trial of the cipher case until January 11, 2024. This decision came after hearing a petition from Imran Khan, the founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), seeking a halt to the in-camera trial. Earlier in the day, the IHC had rejected Khan’s petition, but a subsequent order was issued to temporarily stop the trial.
Imran Khan, currently in custody, had filed a petition last week against his indictment in the cipher case and the proceedings by the special court under the Official Secrets Act. The plea for a stay on the trial was initially dismissed by Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, who stated that notices would be issued before making a decision.
The IHC instructed Khan’s lawyer, Usman Gul, to provide all necessary documents related to the cipher trial at the next hearing. The PTI counsel argued in court about alleged irregularities in the cipher case, highlighting that an FIR was filed before the formal complaint.
During the hearing, the judge questioned the purpose of the petition, and the lawyer explained that legal procedures were not completed before the indictment. He requested the IHC to direct the trial court to delay the case hearing for five or six days.
The judge inquired about the progress of witness statements in the cipher trial, and the lawyer mentioned that 25 witnesses had given statements, with the cross-examination of three completed out of a total of 27 witnesses.
The IHC expressed concerns over the hurried nature of the in-camera trial, emphasizing the importance of open hearings and questioning the special court’s decisions. The Attorney General for Pakistan informed the court that media coverage was allowed during the trial.
The IHC judge observed that it needs to be determined whether the right to a fair trial under Article 10-A is granted in such cases. The judge also referenced the Supreme Court’s previous decision to grant bail to Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case, stating that there was not enough material to deny bail.
On December 22, 2023, both Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were granted post-arrest bail by the Supreme Court in the cipher case, with instructions to submit a surety bond of Rs1 million each. The cipher case involves the alleged misuse of diplomatic cables for political purposes, and both politicians have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The special court had indicted them on December 13, 2023, after the IHC declared their jail trial null and void.