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Ex-Pakistan PM Imran Khan acquitted in state secrets case, but to stay in jail

A high court in Pakistan overturned jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s conviction on charges of leaking state secrets, his lawyer and his party said on Monday, but Khan will remain in prison for now due to a conviction in another case.

Khan, 71, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a lower court on charges of making public a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington in 2022. He has been in jail since August last year.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Khan’s foreign minister during his tenure from 2018-2022, was also acquitted of the charges, in what is a major victory for the jailed leader.

“Thank God, the sentence is overturned,” a spokesman for legal affairs from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Naeem Panjutha, said in a post on the X social media platform.

Khan has said the classified cable was proof of a conspiracy by the Pakistan military and U.S. government to topple his government in 2022 after he visited Moscow just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Washington and Pakistan’s military deny that accusation.

The state secrets case was one of four in which Khan was convicted just ahead of Pakistan’s national election in February. In two other of those cases the sentences have since been suspended while he appeals.

But despite Monday’s acquittal, Khan, a former cricket star, will remain in prison serving a seven-year sentence over another case relating to his marriage to his third wife, Bushra Khan, which contravened Islamic traditions.

“We will celebrate this victory,” another one of his lawyers, Ali Zafar, said in a TV interview, adding that the other cases faced by Khan would result in acquittals too.

Last week, a Pakistani court postponed a ruling on an appeal by Khan and his wife against their conviction in the marriage case.

“It’s a huge political and legal victory,” journalist and political analyst Mazhar Abbas told Reuters, but cautioned that it would be premature to say that Khan would be released anytime soon.

Khan is also named as an accused in several other cases, including charges of inciting violence against the state.

He has been at odds with the country’s powerful military, accusing it of targeting him and his party. The military denies this and has called on Khan and his supporters to be tried for attacking state installations during violent protests against Khan’s initial arrest last year.

Khan and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, was banned from contesting the February election, but candidates backed by the jailed leader still won the most seats. They did not have the numbers to form a government, which was instead led by an alliance of his rivals led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

(Reuters)

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Last Updated: 15th Jun 2024