The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday dismissed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s petition against a jail trial in the cipher case, directing him to approach the designated special court if he desires a court trial.
Announcing the verdict, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq said the jail trial was “in favor” of Khan, as he and his legal team had continuously highlighted the security threat he faced during court appearances. “There is no ill will apparent on the matter of jail trial,” read the ruling, adding Khan could approach the trial court if he continued to have reservations about a jail trial.
Earlier this month, the PTI chief had approached the IHC against conducting the cipher case trial at Adiala Jail, urging it to direct the special court against issuing any orders pertaining to the conduct of the trial in prison. The plea had referred to a notification issued by the law ministry in which it had allowed for the cipher case trial to be conducted in jail due to security concerns highlighted by the Interior Ministry.
Stating that the same matter had been argued before the IHC, the plea had urged the high court to decide whether the law ministry had the authority to issue the no-objection certificate (NOC). It had further questioned whether the NOC could be deemed a “binding order” for the special court judge to shift the trial to Adiala Jail.
The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document—sent by then-ambassador to the U.S. Asad Majeed Khan—that allegedly went missing while in the custody of Khan while he was prime minister. The prosecution maintains the “secret” document was misplaced by Khan, endangering national security, while the PTI claims it had “declassified” it, and the Official Secrets Act no longer applies.
Khan’s trial in the case was initially conducted at Attock Jail, where Khan was serving out a 3-year sentence in the Toshakhana graft case. Even after the IHC suspended his sentence, pending appeals against his conviction, he remained in jail on judicial remand as he was under arrest in the cipher case.
Late last month, Khan was shifted from Attock to Adiala Jail on orders of the IHC against a petition submitted by the PTI. Despite initially demanding the transfer, the PTI in recent weeks has backtracked and claimed Khan preferred Attock to Adiala.
The cipher case, per legal experts, is now nearing a decisive phase, as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has submitted a charge sheet against Khan and PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a special court established under the Official Secrets Act. Last week, the judge said indictment proceedings would occur on Oct. 17, after which the cross-examination of witnesses would commence.