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Thursday February 29, 2024

Open court to hold cipher case trial in Adiala jail

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had earlier ordered the cipher case trial to be conducted at the FJC

By Our Correspondent
November 29, 2023
Former prime minister Imran Khan sits in his Zaman Park residence in Lahore on June 5, 2023. — Facebook/Imran Khan
Former prime minister Imran Khan sits in his Zaman Park residence in Lahore on June 5, 2023. — Facebook/Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD. The Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, who is hearing the cipher case against the former prime minister Imran Khan, ruled that the trial proceedings would continue at the Adiala Jail in an open court format.

The next hearing in the cipher case will be held in Adiala Jail on Friday, the court declared here on Tuesday. Announcing his verdict reserved a short while ago, Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain remarked that jail authorities and security agencies had expressed security concerns, so the next hearing will be held in the jail but in an open court format. The media and public members will be allowed to attend the hearing. As was practised earlier, five members of each suspect’s family will also be allowed to sit through the hearing.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had earlier ordered the cipher case trial to be conducted at the FJC. The IHC had also declared the proceedings of the PTI chairman’s trial conducted in jail so far as null and void. Salman Safdar appeared as the PTI chief’s counsel while Ali Bukhari as Qureshi’s lawyer. The Federal Investigation Authority’s (FIA) prosecutors Shah Khawar and Zulfikar Abbas Naqvi were also present in the court.

Earlier, citing “serious security risks”, the Adiala jail authorities could not present the former premier before the special court at Islamabad’s Federal Judicial Complex (FJC). Last week, Judge Zulqarnain had directed to present both the PTI chief and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the FJC. This followed the special court reserving its verdict on whether PTI Chairman and Vice Chairman would be produced in court or not.

Imran Khan’s lawyer, Salman Safdar, told the court that two separate cases were being heard by the court, including the cipher case and three bail applications. He said he had hoped his client would be produced in court, but he hasn’t been. He also complained the case was being heard in haste.

The Adiala Jail superintendent excused himself from the court in writing for not producing the PTI chairman. FIA Prosecutor Shah Khawar read out the letter from the jail superintendent. Citing reports from sensitive departments and Islamabad police, the letter said the life of the suspect was in danger. The suspect cannot be produced in court, it said. The judge remarked that, according to jail officials, the suspect could not be produced in court.

Safdar objected to the security report, saying that the superintendent violated the IHC orders. He argued that the decisions of the special court and high court were being violated. “What is the interest of the superintendent in keeping PTI chairman in jail?” Safdar asked. The jail report, he argued claims that the Islamabad police had written a letter informing them that Imran Khan would be exposed to a security threat if he is brought to the court. Why is the risk specific to Imran Khan and not Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the lawyer said and asked why the letter had not been produced yet.

He further argued that, if there were security risks, the case should be adjourned indefinitely. “The case cannot be heard in jail and the prosecution does not want it to proceed here in court. In this case, the suspects should be granted bail,” Safdar argued. Qureshi’s lawyer, Ali Bukhari, asked why his client had not been produced when neither any charges were framed nor an investigation report was shared with the suspect. He then asked the judge to get his own order implemented. Judge Zulqarnain then remarked that the media and the public should have access to the court. The judge then reserved the verdict on whether Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood would be produced in the judicial complex or not.