ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court indicted former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his deputy in an official secrets acts case on Monday, his party said, in another blow for the jailed former cricket star ahead of a general election expected in January.
The charge is related to a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington early last year, which Khan is accused of making public.
Khan denies that and said its contents appeared in the media from other sources.
A special court indicted Khan and his party’s deputy leader, former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quershi, his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) told media, adding that the case would begin on Friday. It said it would challenge the indictment.
Khan said the cable was proof of a US conspiracy to push the Pakistani military to oust him in a parliamentary vote in 2022 because he had visited Moscow just before Russia launched attacks on Ukraine.
Both the United States and the Pakistani military deny that.
Khan was forced from office after losing the 2022 no-confidence vote and he then led protests against the government to push for an early general election, and against the military, which he accused of trying to sideline him.
The military denied that.
Khan has had dozens of legal cases filed against him, which he has denounced as an effort to banish him from politics. He has been convicted in one graft case and sentenced to three years in jail.
The sentence was suspended but he remains in prison in connection with other cases, including instigating violence and the official secrets case.
A guilty verdict under the Official Secrets Act could bring up to 14 years in prison or even a death sentence, lawyers say.
Khan’s party said Monday’s hearing took place on the premises of Adyala Jail, near Islamabad, where Khan is being held, with no media or public access.
Khan is disqualified from the upcoming general election because of the graft conviction but his legal team is pushing for him to be released on bail before the vote.
Khan’s old rival, three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, launched his party’s election campaign on Saturday after arriving home from four years of self-imposed exile, promising to tackle inflation.