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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pakistan court orders jailed Imran Khan to appear in public trial

The former cricket star has been embroiled in a tangle of political and legal battles since he was ousted as prime minister in a vote on no-confidence in 2022, which he denounced as unfair.

A Pakistani court on Thursday ordered authorities to produce former Prime Minister Imran Khan for trial on November 28 on charges of leaking state secrets, his lawyer said, in what would be his first public appearance since he was jailed in August.

The former cricket star has been embroiled in a tangle of political and legal battles since he was ousted as prime minister in a vote on no-confidence in 2022, which he denounced as unfair.

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“The court has ordered that Imran Khan be produced on Nov. 28,” Khan’s lawyer, Naeem Panjutha, said in a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We now have to see that this order is implemented.”

The court cited procedures, without elaborating, in stipulating the Nov. 28 date for Khan’s appearance. A spokesperson for the law ministry, which will decide if Khan is to appear, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 71-year-old was jailed on August 5 for three years for unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022.

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He denied wrongdoing and has dismissed all of the various charges brought against him, including graft and the leak of a state secret, as cooked up at the behest of the military to block him from a February 8 general election.

Khan’s state secret trial was being held in prison after authorities cited security risks but the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday declared the prison trial illegal, and ordered that it be re-started, which it did again on Thursday in a public court.

Khan’s legal woes threaten to overshadow the election campaign and both he and his party can be expected to take advantage of a court appearance to reiterate their condemnation of what they say is his unfair treatment.

The election is shaping as a fight between Khan’s party, even though his conviction prevents him from standing, and that of another ousted former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

The military, which has ruled directly or overseen civilian governments since Pakistan’s creation in 1947, denies any involvement in Khan’s troubles.