ISLAMABAD: The trial of former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan, along with his deputy Shah Mehmood Qure­shi in the cipher case, will be held at Adiala Jail with effect from Dec 1, due to purported security concerns.

Special Court (Official Secrets Act) judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain made this decision on Tuesday after going through a rep­ort furnished by the adi­ala jail superintendent.

As per the court order, “[Jail] report based on sec­urity reports… recei­ved from AIG Operations Islamabad Police, Intelli­gence Bureau and Special Branch… communicated to this court, there is an acute threat to the life of accused Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, who is a former prime minister.”

“The aforesaid security reports have been perused carefully. It is evident from these reports that the threat to the life of the accused, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, has not receded and has in fact increased over the past few months,” said the court order, adding that “threat assessment particularly in the present case, where one of the accused is a former PM cannot be disregarded”.

The order also highlighted the part of the report about the previous visit of Mr Khan to the judicial complex, stating that he brought scores of political workers while he was appearing in the court, which compromised the sanctity of the judicial complex. “This court is constrained to hold that the trial of the accused be held in Central Jail Adiala, Rawalpindi,” declared the judge. He also ordered that the trial of Mr Qureshi will also be held in prison.

“It is further held that the jail trial of the accused shall be an open trial. Upon receipt of the sanction of the federal government and concurrence of the jail authorities, the counsels of the accused and five family members of each of the accused shall be entitled to attend the trial proceeding.”

The court also issued a direction to jail authorities to allow “members of the public and all those, who wish to attend the trial proceedings” subject to the capacity and jail rules.

During the course of the hearing, Mr Khan’s sisters and their counsel also appeared before the court. FIA Special Prosecutor Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi and Shah Khawar also appeared.

Mr Khan’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar referred to the production order of Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi issued on Nov 23 and requested the judge to take strict action against jail authorities for not complying with the production order.

Meanwhile, jail authorities submitted their report to the judge. Prosecutor Naqvi cited the order issued by the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on the bail petition of Mr Qureshi that directed the judge to conclude the trial in four weeks.

Barrister Safdar said that this was not a unique case and that the correspondence of jail authorities was of no value. He said Mr Khan could be brought to the judicial complex under appropriate security. He said that the jail superintendent was apparently deciding the venue, adding that Mr Qureshi was facing no threats but he was not produced before the court either.

Prosecutor Naqvi argued that the report of jail authorities was supported by the documentary evidence of the law enforcement agencies. The court also inquired if the jail authorities would allow the public to witness the proceedings, Mr Naqvi replied that the judge may issue the direction in this regard.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2023

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