ISLAMABAD: The Special Court (Official Secrets Act) conducting the trial of former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has barred coverage of its proceedings on all mainstream media outlets, as well as the social media.

On Thursday, Judge Abual Hasnat Mohammad Zulqarnain accepted the prosecution’s plea — moved under Section 14 of the Official Secrets Act — to exclude the general public from the hearing of the cipher case.

As per this section, the prosecution may move an application to exclude the public from the hearing of a case registered under the Official Secrets Act, but the passing of the sentence will, in any case, take place in public.

In his written order, Judge Zulqarnain barred print, electronic and social media from reporting the proceedings and evidence presented in the cipher case, and declared that its proceedings would be held in-camera.

Aleema says Imran’s sons may move UK court to ensure fair trial

After the hearing, Special Prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi told journalists that the trial would be conducted in-camera from now on. He said that since the case was registered under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act, the trial should be conducted behind closed doors.

He said the court had framed charges against the accused and the process of their indictment has been completed, even though they did not sign the charge sheet. The court would now start recording statements of witnesses, he said.

Similar orders have also been issued in the past on cases pertaining to national security, such as the Mumbai attacks case. However, in that matter, reporters were able to pose questions to lawyers after they emerged from the courtroom, who would share details about the day’s proceedings, which would then be reported by the press.

Incidentally, the Mumbai attacks case is also currently pending before the same judge.

But while Thursday’s order in the cipher case rest­rained the family members of the accused from sharing any details of the proceedings with the media, or on social, it did not mention whether lawyers would be able to share updates on proceedings or not.

Talking to reporters, Mr Qureshi’s counsel Barrister Taimur Malik said that the judge had read out the charges, but the court did not ask the accused to sign the charge sheet.

Mr Khan’s sister Aleema Khan told journalists that her nephews would file a lawsuit in UK courts as they believed the ex-PM has been denied a fair trial. Meanwhile, an accountability court in Islamabad handed over custody of Mr Khan to NAB in the Toshakhana case.

NAB’s prosecutor sought a seven-day physical remand but the judge granted only a two-day remand and adjourned the case until Saturday.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Price bombs
Updated 18 Jun, 2024

Price bombs

It just wants to take the easy route and enjoy the ride for however long it is in power.
Palestine’s plight
Updated 17 Jun, 2024

Palestine’s plight

While the faithful across the world are celebrating with their families, thousands of Palestinian children have either been orphaned, or themselves been killed by the Israeli aggressors.
Profiting off denied visas
17 Jun, 2024

Profiting off denied visas

IT is no secret that visa applications to the UK and Schengen countries come at a high cost. But recent published...
After the deluge
Updated 16 Jun, 2024

After the deluge

There was a lack of mental fortitude in the loss against India while against US, the team lost all control and displayed a lack of cohesion and synergy.
Fugue state
16 Jun, 2024

Fugue state

WITH its founder in jail these days, it seems nearly impossible to figure out what the PTI actually wants. On one...
Sindh budget
16 Jun, 2024

Sindh budget

SINDH’S Rs3.06tr budget for the upcoming financial year is a combination of populist interventions, attempts to...