Special court decides to hold cipher trial in Adiala jail in open court

Decision taken after Adiala jail authorities fail to produce Imran Khan in court today citing "security risks"

Arfa Feroz Zake
PTI Chairman Imran Khan and vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi. — AFP/File
PTI Chairman Imran Khan and vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi. — AFP/File

  • Court says trial to take place in light of security report. 
  • Report says Imran Khan not produced due to security issues. 
  • Khan's lawyer raises objection over report by superintendent. 

ISLAMABAD: A special court Tuesday announced that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi's trial in the cipher case will be conducted in Adiala jail.

In today's hearing, Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain — who has conducting Khan's trial — said: "The cipher trial will take place in jail in light of the security report by the superintendent of Adiala Jail." 

The order said that the next hearing of the case would take place at Adiala jail. The court also stated that the proceedings can be attended by anyone who wishes to do so including the journalists.

The court also noted that five family members of the suspect would be allowed to attend the proceedings. Judge Zulqarnain adjourned the hearing till December 1. 

Last week, the court ordered authorities to present the former prime minister and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi at Islamabad's Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) today.

However, today the Adiala jail authorities failed to produce the former prime minister before the special court citing "security risks" in their report despite the orders to present him at the FJC. 

The orders were issued in the first hearing of the cipher case that held outside the Adiala prisons after the Islamabad High Court's (IHC) decision to nullify the August 29 notification for a jail trial.

Judge Zulqarnain of the special court has been conducting the trial in jail citing security concerns since Khan was indicted on the charges last month. 

In August of this year, Khan and Qureshi were booked under the Official Secrets Act 1923 in the cipher case after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) invoked Section 5 of the said law.

Both the leaders have been indicted in the missing cipher case and are currently in Adiala jail after they were indicted by the special court. 

The diplomatic cable reportedly went missing from Imran's possession. According to the former ruling party, the cable contained a threat from the United States to topple the PTI’s government.

Today's hearing

The hearing today was president by Judge Zulqarnain at the FJC. 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.

At the outset of the hearing, the judge directed the court staff to present the record of the case.

The Adiala jail authorities submitted the report to the court regarding Imran Khan's appearance, which said that they could not present the PTI chief due to serious security risks.

The superintendent of the Adiala jail, in his report, wrote that they have sought additional security from the Islamabad police.

Speaking to media persons at FJC, Prosecutor Khawar said that the PTI chief should be produced as the court will conduct a fresh trial.

"His court appearance is important in light of IHC's orders," he said, adding that the criminal code requires that the accused be produced and the counsel can file a petition under Section 540 in case he's not brought to the court.

Khawar added that it was important to produce the accused to charge him. 

Meanwhile, Khan's lawyer Safdar raised objections over the security report, saying that the superintendent violated the IHC orders. 

He questioned why was Qureshi not produced in court when only Khan was facing security risks. 

“On what intelligence agency’s basis are they saying that there are threats to his life? When we used to say his life is in danger, we were told to reach anyways.”

Later, Qureshi's lawyer Ali Bukhari also questioned the non-appearance of his client's trial. "It is the court's responsibility to present Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi," he added. 

“Neither has any charge been framed yet, nor has any copy [of charge sheet] been distributed. Then why has he been kept inside [the jail]?” the counsel asked.

Judge Zulqarnain then said he would issue an “appropriate order” on the matter.

“No matter how many notifications you bring, it does not matter. The public and the media should have access to the court,” the judge observed.

Lawyer Safdar then asserted that the superintendent should be directed to present Imran Khan in the court. 

Subsequently, the court reserved its order on the jail report.