The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday issued a stay order on the jail trial of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case, halting proceedings in a special court formed under the Official Secrets Act.
The order was issued by a two-member bench comprising Justices Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Saman Riffat Imtiaz, which has been hearing the PTI chief’s intra-court appeal against a single-member bench that declared it did not see any “apparent malice” in the conduct of a jail trial in light of security concerns. The court subsequently adjourned proceedings until Nov. 16, while summoning all records pertaining to proceedings conducted in the trial thus far, as well as reasons for conducting it in-prison.
During today’s proceedings, Justice Aurangzeb observed that allowing a few family members of the accused to attend the proceedings was not equal to an open court trial. Similarly, he remarked, the manner of the accused’s indictment cannot be considered an open court proceeding. Earlier, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan had informed the court about the conduct of the trial in prison, adding the federal cabinet had approved it through a notification.
To this, Justice Aurangzeb remarked the bench would examine the notification, adding the conduct of trials in prison was not a regular occurrence. To an inquiry on why the prison trial was merited, the AGP informed the court that he would submit all relevant documents before it. Justice Aurangzeb also questioned the status of the proceedings conducted prior to the cabinet’s notification.
Both PTI leaders are currently incarcerated at Adiala Jail as under-trial prisoners in the cipher case, with authorities justifying the jail trial as necessary amidst security concerns of the PTI chief. The cipher case pertains to a coded diplomatic cable that authorities allege went missing from Khan’s custody, endangering the “national interest” and hampering foreign envoys’ ability to conduct their business.