Imran’s cipher trial to continue in Attock jail after fresh notification

Published September 13, 2023
Policemen stand guard at the Attock prison post where PTI chief Imran Khan is being held in Attock on August 6. — AFP
Policemen stand guard at the Attock prison post where PTI chief Imran Khan is being held in Attock on August 6. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: A special court will resume proceedings in the cipher case against former PM Imran Khan today (Wednesday) after the law ministry issued a notification on Tuesday, expressing no objections to conducting the trial in Attock jail.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has reserved its order on a petition challenging the conduct of Mr Khan’s trial in prison, rather than Islamabad.

The PTI chief’s 14-day judicial remand expired on Tuesday, and as per the law ministry’s fresh notification, the special court judge Abual Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain had requested that proceedings be held in Attock jail “due to security reasons”.

During Tuesday’s proceedings in the IHC, Chief Justice Aamer Farooq heard arguments from Mr Khan’s counsel Sher Afzal Marwat, who was seeking his client’s transfer from Attock to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail, the upgrade of his prison class and his trial in an Islamabad court, instead of jail premises.The counsel read out a notification issued ealier by the law ministry to hold Mr Khan’s trial in Attock jail, and argued that since the cipher case was registered against his client in Islamabad and the special court assigned to try suspects under the Official Secrets Act was based in the federal capital, the law ministry’s notification to transfer the case from Islamabad to Attock was without legal backing.

IHC CJ reserves verdict on plea to move trial to capital, shift PTI chief to Adiala

He said that since Mr Khan is currently on judicial remand, he was required to be kept in the territorial jurisdiction of the relevant court.

Mr Marwat also said that only the Supreme Court could transfer the case from one province to another, adding that Mr Khan was detained in Attock jail following his conviction in the Toshakhana case and was supposed to be shifted to Adiala when his sentence was suspended.

But Additional Attorney General Munawar Iqbal argued that the notification to conduct the trial in jail was issued for ‘one time only’.

Special Prosecutor Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi pointed out that the court did not commence the trial in the cipher case and asserted that Mr Marwat’s petition had already become infructuous as the notification to conduct the court proceeding in Attock Jail was issued for August 30, which had passed.

But Justice Farooq observed that the court would determine the law ministry’s authority, anticipating the possibility of another notification being issued.

Justice Farooq concluded proceedings by saying that he would pass an “appropriate order”.

Legal team denied access

On the other hand, Mr Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi and sister Noreen Niazi met him in Attock jail, but his legal team was once again denied access to the former prime minister.

Sources said the one-on-one meeting between the couple, held in the deputy superintendent’s room, lasted an hour.

It was Bushra Bibi’s sixth meeting with her husband in Attock jail and first meeting of his elder sister after the PTI chairman was sent to jail in the Toshakhana case on August 5. Two other sisters of Mr Khan, Aleema Khan and Uzma Khan, met him in the jail on August 29.

Both Bushra Bibi and Noreen Niazi were earlier stopped at a police checkpoint in the vicinity of the prison for about half an hour in hot and humid weather. A police contingent comprising elite force led by a DSP kept them at picket halt. Following a brief standoff with police authorities, Bushra Bibi was allowed to enter the jail to meet her husband. She was accompanied by the legal team outside the Attock Jail but the lawyers were stopped at the checkpoint.

Talking to newsmen outside the jail, Noreen Niazi termed the health and morale of her brother “strong” despite being kept in “poor conditions” for the past 38 days“.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2023

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