A special court in Islamabad on Thursday reserved its verdict on PTI leader Senator Azam Swati’s post-arrest bail plea in a case related to a controversial tweet against the army chief.

Special Judge Central Raja Asif Meh­mood heard the case.

Swati was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Oct 13 over his tweet in which he had sarcastically congratulated “Mr Bajwa” and a few others, saying “your plan is really working and all criminals are getting free at cost of this country” and alleging corruption had been “legitimised”.

His tweet had come after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz were acquitted in a high-profile money laundering case.

The senator was later sent to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on 14-day judicial remand. The PTI leader moved an application before the FIA’s special court seeking his release on post-arrest bail.

Swati’s counsel, Babar Awan, completed his arguments yesterday. When the hearing resumed today, Prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi argued that the present case did not come under the jurisdiction of the special court and should instead be heard by a district and sessions court.

He said Swati tweeted a “hateful statement” against the army chief and “tried to incite a rebellion within the army”.

“Swati levelled allegations against the army chief after the acquittal of a few suspects. What connection does the army chief have with court decisions? Senator Swati made an inflammatory statement against the army chief and institutions on a public forum,” Abbasi said.

The prosecutor added that Swati had “admitted during investigation that he had written the tweet”.

On the other hand, Swati’s counsel Awan argued that his client had exercised his constitutional right to freedom of expression by tweeting. “Swati was tortured and humiliated,” he told the court.

“Was there a rebellion in the army after Swati’s tweet? Did a subedar desert? Did a captain resign?” Awan asked.

Subsequently, the court reserved its verdict which will be announced tomorrow.

The case

The FIR registered at the FIA’s Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in Islamabad mentions that Swati tweeted with “malafide intentions & ulterior motives” against “State Institutes of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its Senior Government Functionaries including Chief of The Army Staff of Pakistan Army”.

The FIR adds that such “intimidating tweet/s of blaming and naming through Twitter account i.e., @AzamKhanSwatiPK, is a mischievous act of subversion to create a rift between personnel/s of The Armed Forces and an attempt to harm the State of Pakistan”.

Through the aforementioned tweet, the criminal complaint says, the accused “undermined the Judicial System of the country and also attempted to seduce Army Personnel/s from their allegiance to their duties as subordinates.

“This is calculated attempt to create hatred in the mind of people and Army Personnel/s against COAS and Pakistan Army and also created distrust towards Judicial System. In such intimidating Tweet/s, the accused Muhammad Azam Khan Swati has attempted to provoke general public and Personnel/s of Armed Forces by trying to create a feeling of ill-will among pillars of the State.”

It alleges Swati violated the privacy and intimidated the state institutions, by using false information, “which is likely to incite, any officer, soldier, sailor, or Airman in the Army, Navy or Air Force of Pakistan to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such and is also likely to cause fear or alarm in the public and may induce / incite anyone to commit an offence against the State or the State Institution/s or public tranquillity”.

The case was made out against the PTI leader under section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act-2016 read with 131 (abetting mutiny or attempting to seduce a soldier from his duty), 500 (punishment for defamation), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 109 (punishment of abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

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