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Former Pakistani PM Imran Khan sentenced to 10 years in prison for US-related state secrets

Imran Khan Sentenced for 10 Years

A special court in Pakistan sentenced former Prime Minister Imran Khan to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for publishing state secrets involving the United States when he was prime minister.

Imran Khan’s former foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, was also sentenced to 10 years in prison on the same charge. The lawsuit stems from an encrypted telegram known internally as a cipher.

Imran Khan said the diplomatic cable documented the United States’ alleged involvement in overthrowing his government with the help of Pakistan’s military to punish him for promoting a foreign policy without American influence. Washington and the Pakistani military deny the allegation.

Imran Khan, 71, who was overthrown by an opposition coalition in April 2022, said the cable trial was politically motivated and engineered by the Pakistani military.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party slammed the court ruling as a “complete mockery and disregard of the law” and said “no media or public could attend” the trial. Tehreek-e-Insaf said its legal team “will appeal to a higher court” “in the hope that this verdict will be stopped.”

The single-judge tribunal, where the trial was held in a high-security prison near Islamabad, was attended by foreign and most of Pakistan’s mainstream media representatives. Cannot attend.

Imran Khan’s lawyer, Salman Safdar, said the verdict was unconstitutional and would not stand up to scrutiny by a higher court.

“The cross-examination of 18 witnesses took place late at night and early this morning,” Safdar told reporters. “The legal team was excluded and was not allowed to enter the prison.”

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Tuesday’s sentencing under the Official Secrets Act is scheduled for February 8 and was made before the parliamentary elections were held.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington sent the cable to Islamabad in March 2022, a month before Imran Khan was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote.

Imran Khan said he must share the cables with his constituents in which the United States encouraged the military to orchestrate the vote and expose foreign collusion against his government.

Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, said the charges against Khan were serious, but the case should still go through a fair legal process.

Kugelman told the media that “the opaqueness and timing of the verdict clearly show a political motive focused on further undermining Khan’s position ahead of next week’s vote.” “He was already unable to participate in the election due to a previous verdict, and this new verdict highlights how badly this country wants Khan killed.”

Imran Khan was sentenced to three years in prison in August on controversial corruption charges. He was subsequently disqualified from running for election for five years under a law prohibiting criminals from participating in elections.

Imran Khan, a hockey hero turned politician, has denied any wrongdoing and accused the military of orchestrating the nearly 200 charges against him since his ouster, including rioting, corruption, and terrorism.

Brookings Institution scholar Madiha Afzal, commenting on Tuesday’s court ruling

On the contrary, the right to counsel was denied, and Khan and Qureshi were hastily sentenced to 10 years in prison today, only 9 days before the election.”

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Imran Khan came to power after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf won parliamentary elections in 2018, but he disagreed with the military over key appointments and foreign policy matters, which critics say led to his overthrow.

The Pakistani military has directly ruled Pakistan for more than 30 years since it gained independence from Britain in 1947, and its generals are often accused of involvement in controlling or overthrowing elected governments.

The military denies interfering in political affairs, but former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa admitted in a nationally televised address days before his retirement in November 2022 that the military has been interfering in politics for the past 70 years.

A military-backed government crackdown has detained dozens of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders in recent months, forcing many to quit the party or join political forces opposed to Khan. The Tehreek-e-Insaf has also been banned from holding election rallies, and mainstream media cannot broadcast Khan’s name.

Despite the crackdown, recent polls show Imran Khan is Pakistan’s most popular politician, and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is the largest national party.

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