State counsels appointed for Imran, Qureshi in cypher case

The special court formed to hear cases under the Official Secrets Act appointed on Saturday state counsels for former premier Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

According to Express Tribune , The decision was announced by special court Judge Abul Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain after the counsels representing the accused were absent from court proceedings on Friday.

The hearing a day earlier was marred by the counsels’ absence and they failed to show up despite a scheduled resumption at noon.

Deliberating on the facts and circumstances, the court emphasised that it provided ample opportunities for the accused’s legal representation to be present in court. However, with no senior lawyer appearing on behalf of either Imran or Qureshi, the court had no recourse but to appoint state defence counsel.

An email request for the same was sent to the attorney general Islamabad’s office, asking for a list of lawyers who could represent the accused as state counsel.

The court received a response from the AG’s office via letter, naming the lawyers who will now represent Imran and Qureshi in the cypher case. Advocate Malik Abdul Rahman will now represent Imran, while Advocate Hazrat Younus will represent Qureshi.

Both advocates will present the case on behalf of the accused and cross-examine the witnesses. The appointed counsels are scheduled to present their arguments on January 27.

The cypher

The case originated from Imran’s public display of a paper during a rally in Islamabad on March 27, 2022, claiming it as evidence of an “international conspiracy” before a vote of no-confidence led to his government’s ouster.

The FIA initiated its probe into the so-called “cypher-gate” on July 19, 2023, after the previous coalition government announced an official inquiry against the former prime minister and his close associates for violating the OSA.

Imran was arrested on August 5, following his conviction in the Toshakhana case by a local court of Islamabad. Later, he was also arrested in the cypher case on August 29.

As per the challan papers, Imran and Qureshi were charged under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act. These provisions entail the possibility of the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Previously, the cypher trial had started inside the Adiala jail but an IHC division bench later annulled all those proceedings, ordering a fresh open court trial.

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