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Islamabad High Court acquits Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi in cypher case

 Islamabad High Court acquits Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi in cypher case 

Islamabad , June 3: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday acquitted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan and party leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cypher case, Pakistan-based Dawn reported.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb announced the verdict after accepting the appeals of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi against their convictions in the cypher case.

The two PTI leaders are not expected to be released from prison due to Imran Khan's sentences in the Toshakhana and Iddat cases. Moreover, former Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has been arrested in recent May 9 cases.

Earlier in January, a special court, established under the Official Secrets Act, had handed both Khan and Qureshi 10-year jail sentences each in the case after Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain appointed a state counsel for them, according to Dawn report.

The cypher case is associated with a diplomatic document that the Federal Investigation Agency's charge sheet alleges was never returned by former Pakistan PM Imran Khan, who long held that the document included a threat from the US to topple his government.

Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is also behind bars, were first indicted in the case in October. The two leaders had pleaded not guilty. The Islamabad High Court had called the government's notification for a jail trial "erroneous" and scrapped the entire proceedings.

Earlier in May, a special court had started the cypher trial afresh at the Adiala district jail after the two leaders were indicted for a second time in the case on December 13.

On December 22, the Supreme Court approved the post-arrest bails of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi. While Imran Khan has been incarcerated in other cases, Qureshi's expected release was halted as he was manhandled and re-arrested in a fresh May 9 case.

Days later, Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb restricted the special court from proceeding against the suspects, including Qureshi till Jan 11. However, the stay order on the in-camera trial was withdrawn after the state counsel assured that the witnesses' statements would be recorded afresh, Dawn reported. 

On January 18, the special court recorded the statement of five witnesses, including then-Pakistan PM Imran Khan's former principal secretary Azam Khan. Other witnesses included Javed Iqbal, Hidayatullah, Aneesur Rehman, Javed Iqbal and Mohammad Ashfaq.

Azam Khan claimed that the cypher never returned to his office. The next day, the caretaker government moved the Supreme Court to challenge the IHC's verdict announced in November that declared the trial illegal.

In a subsequent hearing, the PTI founder had claimed that the cypher was still with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and he received a rephrased version of the diplomatic cable.

On January 22, the special court recorded the statements of another four witnesses. The next day, six more prosecution witnesses recorded their statements. Initially, there were 28 witnesses, however, only 25 testified before the court after three witnesses were dropped from the list.

During the next hearing, the court concluded the cross-examination of four prosecution witnesses. The FIA prosecutor then claimed that the defence side was applying delaying tactics to prolong the trial and requested the court to close the defence counsel's right of cross-examination.

Subsequently, Judge Zulqarnain appointed Abdul Rehman and Hazrat Younis as defence lawyer for Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the next hearing, according to Dawn report. 

PTI founder said his lawyers could not appear before the court as they were contesting general elections. Imran Khan said that the trial was nothing less than a "joke" and added that the prosecution and defence team both belonged to the government.–(ANI)

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