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IHC Rejects FIA Request for In-Camera Trial of IK’s Bail Plea

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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has turned down the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) plea for closed-door proceedings in the bail application of former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan concerning the cipher case. IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq announced this decision and specified that while the matter will be heard in an open court, certain documents will remain confidential after consultation with legal counsel. The court has scheduled the bail application hearing for October 9.

The cipher case revolves around a missing diplomatic cable allegedly in Imran Khan’s possession. Imran Khan has consistently claimed that the cipher suggests a conspiracy to remove him from the Prime Minister’s office, both before and after his ousting via a vote of no-confidence in April 2022. Following this, Imran Khan was sentenced to three years in prison in the Toshakhana case on August 5, 2023, and incarcerated in Attock District Jail to serve his sentence. The IHC later suspended his sentence, but he was arrested in the cipher case, remaining in Attock jail on judicial remand. A special court was established under the Official Secrets Act to conduct Imran Khan’s trial within the jail premises.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who served as the Foreign Minister in Imran Khan’s government, is also implicated in the cipher case. Their judicial remand was extended until October 10 during the last hearing on September 26.

Since Imran Khan’s transfer to Adiala Jail from Attock prison, the special court has held hearings within the Adiala Jail premises. Imran Khan has challenged the trial within the jail and has filed an application with the IHC to prevent the law ministry from issuing a notification regarding the jail trial.

In the application, it is noted that the IHC’s decision on the petition against the transfer of the trial court to Attock Jail is still pending. At the same time, the law ministry issued a similar notification for the transfer of the court to Adiala Jail. Imran Khan has urged the IHC to announce the reserved judgment on the main application.

On September 30, the FIA declared both PTI leaders, Imran Khan and Qureshi, as principal accused in its challan submitted before the special court. During the Wednesday hearing, the court halted further proceedings until copies of the challan were provided to the accused.

Imran Khan and Qureshi appeared before the court accompanied by their legal representatives, while the FIA’s team and Special Prosecutor Zulfiqar Abbasi were also present. Imran Khan reportedly had discussions with his legal team during the proceedings.

At the outset of the hearing, the FIA prosecutor requested the court for in-camera proceedings. However, Judge Abul Hasnaat Zulqarnain pointed out that the general public was not present in the courtroom, given that the trial was taking place within the prison. The hearing has been adjourned until October 9.

Following the hearing, Imran Khan’s lawyer, Salman Safdar, addressed the media outside Adiala Jail. Imran Khan characterized the cipher case as an attempt to protect “certain individuals” and firmly denied any involvement in any deals. He stressed the urgency of holding immediate and transparent elections in Pakistan.

Regarding the FIA’s request for an in-camera trial of the cipher case, Safdar emphasized that any proceedings should be conducted openly before the public. He also asserted that requesting in-camera proceedings for charges under the Official Secrets Act, an antiquated law dating back a century is unconstitutional.

Safdar stated that the charges under the Official Secrets Act were serious, and the circumstances surrounding Imran Khan’s arrest and now the efforts to keep the trial confidential were concerning. He further indicated that the matter is currently under review by the high court, and his legal team would seek an adjournment of proceedings until a decision is reached.

The Islamabad High Court’s decision to reject the FIA’s request for in-camera proceedings in Imran Khan’s bail application hearing marks a significant development in the ongoing legal proceedings surrounding the cipher case. While the trial is scheduled to continue in an open court, certain documents will remain confidential, subject to consultation with legal counsel. The case continues to draw public and media attention as it unfolds.

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