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Former Pak PM Imran Khan sentenced in cipher case simply to appease a foreign power: Lawyer

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Islamabad, Mar 29 (PTI) Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s lawyer, while pointing out loopholes in a trial court’s verdict in the diplomatic cipher case, has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf founder and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were sentenced in the case simply to appease a foreign power.

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The Express Tribune on Friday reported that it emerged during the hearing of appeals by the PTI leaders by a division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday.

The bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, resumed hearing the appeals of the PTI leaders against their conviction under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, for misusing a diplomatic cipher to the detriment of national interests.

Just two weeks before the ouster of the PTI government in April 2022 through a vote of no-confidence, Khan had brandished a piece of paper—allegedly a copy of a diplomatic cipher—at a public rally in Islamabad, claiming it as proof of a conspiracy against his government by a foreign power.

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During the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) registered a case against Khan and Qureshi for misusing the cipher copy.

The ex-prime minister, along with Qureshi, was handed down a sentence of 10 years each in the cipher case in January for publishing contents of a secret cable sent by the country's ambassador in Washington to the government in Islamabad.

On Thursday, when Justice Farooq asked Salman Safdar, the lawyer of 71-year-old Khan and 67-year-old Qureshi, about what the former premier had waved in a public rally in March 2022, the lawyer said it was the job of the prosecution—the FIA—to establish what was in Khan’s hand during that rally.

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Continuing his arguments, Safdar said Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed, had dispatched the cipher after a meeting with US diplomat Donald Lu.

“In his testimony before the trial court, he did not disclose what prompted him to send the cipher telegram after that meeting. However, he clarified that he never mentioned any conspiracy in his message,” Safdar said.

When Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb asked Safdar if Majeed was one of the prosecution witnesses who were aware of the content of the cipher, the lawyer replied in the affirmative.

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He said Majeed had recommended in a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting to issue a strong demarche on Donald Lu's statement, adding that the former PM had not violated his oath by revealing the threat issued by Lu.

Safdar said the trial court neither summoned the former US charge d’affaires, Angela Aggeler nor asked for the record of her WhatsApp conversations with another Pakistani official.

“A former PM has been put behind bars on the instruction of former US charge d’affaires and Lu,” he said.

Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb asked if a PM could be imprisoned, say just for laying stress on completing the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project. “At least you will need an FIR to do that,” he added.

The court noted that Asad Majeed could be the star witness of the prosecution. However, he did not reveal anything to qualify to become such a witness. The court later adjourned till Tuesday, the report said. PTI SH GSP AMS GSP

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