Imran Khan acquitted of leaking state secrets, but remains in jail

Imran Khan Editorial credit: Awais khan /

A Pakistani court has acquitted former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a case that accused him of leaking state secrets, but he will remain in jail pending the outcome of another case.

The ex-cricket star had been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a lower court on charges of making public a cypher, a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s envoy in Washington in 2022.

A two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, in a brief verdict, also exonerated Khan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the charges, who was co-accused in the case.

Khan, 71 has been in jail since last August, and despite his acquittal, will remain in jail. He along with his third wife Bushra Khan is serving a seven-sentence in illegal marriage case.

About 200 cases have been registered against Khan since his ouster, but he has received acquittals and bails in several of them. His conviction in a corruption case involving state gifts was set aside by the same court last year.

Khan, who came to power in 2018, lost a vote of confidence in parliament in April 2022, nearly one year short of completing his term. He accuses the U.S. of orchestrating his removal, a charge Washington and Islamabad have rejected.

The exoneration is seen as a political boost for his party, which won most seats in the February 8 election but could not form a government as rivals formed a coalition.

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His party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), welcomed the verdict, terming it a “victory of justice.”

PTI chairman Gohar Khan told reporters outside the court that “justice has prevailed” as the prosecution failed to prove its case against the ex-premier. “God willing, he [Khan] will soon be out of jail as all the cases against him are politically-motivated,” he added.

Leader of opposition Omar Ayub hailed the verdict and called for “immediate” release of both Khan and Qureshi. “Alhumdolillah!!! PM Imran Khan and Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureishi sahib acquitted in the cipher case. They are political prisoners and should be released immediately,” he said in a post on X.

Aqeel Malik, adviser to government on legal affairs, said the prosecution will wait for the detailed judgement to decide if it should be challenged in the Supreme Court.

“This is a fact that it was waved at a political rally and you all know that the PTI founder waved and used a confidential Pakistani document for his political purposes,” he said, adding: “The better way would have been that this should have been seen in the context of national security and the case should have been sent for a retrial.”

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