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Pakistan court rules the prison trial of former Prime Minister Imran Khan is illegal

Last Updated Nov 21, 2023 at 8:27 am MST

FILE - Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan listens to a member of the media during a talk with reporters regarding the current political situation and the ongoing cases against him at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan, on Aug. 3, 2023. A Pakistani court on Monday, Oct. 23, indicted Imran Khan on charges of revealing official secrets after his 2022 ouster from office in another slap to the former prime minister who will likely be unable to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections in late January. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary, File)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court ruled Tuesday that the ongoing prison trial of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on charges of revealing state secrets is illegal, his lawyer said.

The ruling by the Islamabad High Court came on a petition filed by Khan, lawyer Naeem Haider Panjutha said.

It was unclear whether the government would appeal. Authorities have insisted Khan was being tried at a prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi because of threats to his life.

The court’s decision came about a month after Khan was indicated for allegedly revealing state secrets, a charge that legal experts say carries a possible death sentence.

Khan’s close aide, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was deputy in his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, is a co-defendant in the case. Both menhave denied the charges them during the trial at Adiyala Prison.

The case against Khan is related to his speech and waving of a confidential diplomatic letter at a rally after his ouster in a no-confidence vote in parliament in 2022.

The document — dubbed Cipher — has not been made public by either the government or Khan’s lawyers but was apparently diplomatic correspondence between the Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

Khan claimed it was proof that his ouster was a U.S. conspiracy, allegedly executed by the military and his political opponents, including his successor Shehbaz Sharif. Washington, Pakistan’s military and Sharif have denied the claim.

Khan has not appeared in public since August, when he was sentenced to three years for corruption. The Islamabad High Court subsequently suspended that sentence but he remained in custody due to his arrest in the Cipher case.

Tuesday’s development came ahead of the parliamentary elections which are to be held on February 8.

According to analysts, Khan’s party still could win the most seats, but he is not eligible to run for parliament due to his conviction in the graft case.

Munir Ahmed, The Associated Press