Pakistan court orders ex-PM Imran Khan’s open trial inside jail premises

Court says a fresh trial in the so-called cypher case will be held in prison but will be open to media and the public.

Imran Khan
has not made a public appearance since his arrest on August 5 this year [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – A court in Pakistan has ordered an open trial of former Prime Minister Imran Khan inside the jail premises, which will be open to his family members and the public.

The special court in Islamabad on Tuesday said the trial in the alleged leaking of state secrets case will be held at Adiala Jail premises, about 34km (21 miles) from the capital, where Khan has been lodged since the end of September.

Despite an order by the Islamabad High Court last week, Khan was not presented before the court on Tuesday, with the government saying there were “serious security concerns”, including a threat to his life.

In his short order, Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain said five family members of Khan, and former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who is also an accused in the case, will be allowed to attend the proceedings along with the public and media.

The hearing will begin on Friday. The trial so far in the state secrets case, also called the cypher case, was being held in jail but the Islamabad High Court last week declared it illegal.

The case relates to a diplomatic cable – or cypher – sent to Islamabad by a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, which Khan claims proves his allegation that his removal from office last year was a conspiracy hatched by his political opponents and the Pakistani military in collusion with the US.

The US and Pakistani authorities reject the charge.

Pakistan police
Police officers stand at the entrance of a judicial complex in Islamabad [Fayaz Aziz/Reuters]

Khan’s lawyer told Al Jazeera he was disappointed with Tuesday’s ruling, saying a trial in jail cannot be open.

“We are definitely not satisfied with the court’s order. Our demand has consistently been that the hearing should take place in an open court with full public access to it. But now this hearing is converted into a jail trial. While the court has said the public is allowed access, it is never the case within jail premises,” Khalid Yousaf Chaudhry said.

Khan, 71, was Pakistan’s prime minister from 2018 to April 2022, when he lost a parliamentary vote of confidence. Since then, he has been facing a slew of charges which he says are a ploy by the government and the military to keep him out of the crucial general elections, scheduled on February 8.

In August, he was convicted and jailed for three years for illegally selling gifts he received from foreign leaders and governments when he was the prime minister. Though he was granted bail and his sentencing suspended, he remains in custody in the cypher case.

Khan, Pakistan’s main opposition leader whose party is being considered a frontrunner in next year’s election, has not made a public appearance since his arrest on August 5.

Separately, Khan’s lawyers have also expressed concerns about Khan’s security arrangements inside the jail, claiming his life is in danger.

Khan survived an assassination attempt when he was shot in the leg during a rally in the eastern province of Punjab.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies