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Pakistan’s Top Court Acquits Imran Khan of Leaking State Secrets Charge

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Pakistan's Imran Khan
Imran Khan as been in jail since August of last year: Reuters Image

Pakistan’s top court has overturned former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s conviction on allegations of leaking state secrets, his lawyer and party claimed on Monday, but Khan will remain in prison for the time being due to a conviction in another case.

Khan, 71, was sentenced to ten years in prison by a lower court for making public a classified cable delivered to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington in 2022. He’s been in jail since August of last year.

He had disputed the conviction at the Islamabad High Court, which declared in a judgment on Monday that a “instant appeal is allowed” and that Imran Khan had been acquitted.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Khan’s foreign minister from 2018 to 2022, was also cleared of the allegations, marking a significant victory for the incarcerated leader.

“Thank God, the sentence has been overturned,” Naeem Panjutha, a spokesman for legal issues for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, wrote on the X social networking platform shortly after the Islamabad High Court announced its ruling.

After visiting Moscow shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Khan claimed that the classified cable was proof of a plan by the Pakistani military and the US administration to destabilize his government in 2022. Both Washington and Pakistan’s military refute the accusation.

Khan Remains in Prison

Khan was convicted in four cases, including one involving state secrets, soon before Pakistan’s national election in February. In two other cases, he has had his sentencing suspended while he appeals.

Despite his acquittal on Monday, Khan, a former cricketer, will remain in prison serving a seven-year sentence in another case involving his marriage to his third wife, Bushra Khan, also known as Bushra Bibi, which broke Islamic rules.

According to Khan’s lawyers, a verdict on the couple’s appeal against the punishment was postponed last week and the hearings were shifted to another court after a judge recused himself due to an accusation of bias brought by Bibi’s previous husband.

“We will celebrate this victory,” another of his lawyers, Ali Zafar, said in a television interview, adding that Khan’s other cases would also result in acquittals.

“It’s a huge political and legal victory,” writer and political commentator Mazhar Abbas told Reuters, adding that it would be premature to predict Khan’s release anytime soon. Khan is also charged in a number of other crimes, including inciting violence against the state.

Pakistan’s Powerful Military

He has clashed with the country’s powerful military, accusing them of targeting him and his party. The military rejects this and has called for Khan and his followers to face charges for destroying state installations during violent rallies over Khan’s initial incarceration last year.

Khan and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, were barred from participating the February election, but candidates supported by the imprisoned leader won the most seats. They lacked the numbers to create a government, therefore Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif organized an alliance of his enemies.

The government, which claims Khan violated state secrets law by releasing the contents of a secret diplomatic cable, said prosecutors were waiting for the detailed decision before deciding whether to appeal the acquittal in the Supreme Court.

“It is a fact that a national security document was used for political purposes,” government spokesman for legal affairs Aqeel Malik stated in a press conference following the ruling, adding that the government will not compromise national security.

Source: Reuters

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