Pakistan court sentences ex-PM Imran Khan to 10 years ahead of elections
A Pakistani court sentenced former Prime Minister Imran Khan to a 10-year jail term on Tuesday for leaking state secrets, as announced by his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
This sentence, the harshest yet against Khan, comes just ten days before the general election. The court found Khan guilty of publicizing a secret cable from Pakistan's ambassador in Washington to the government in Islamabad. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, former foreign minister, also received a 10-year sentence in the same case.
This conviction marks Khan's second in recent months, ensuring his absence from public life and the upcoming elections. The court is expected to release its written verdict later. PTI announced plans to contest the decision, with Khan's lawyer Naeem Panjutha expressing rejection of the "illegal decision" on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Zulfikar Bukhari, an aide to Khan, told Reuters that the legal team was denied the opportunity to represent Khan or cross-examine witnesses, describing the trial as one-sided and conducted in jail. Bukhari views the conviction as an effort to undermine Khan's support, predicting increased voter turnout as a result.
Khan, a popular ex-cricket star, was already out of the election race due to a previous three-year sentence for corruption. Despite hopes from his legal team for his release from jail since last August, this latest conviction makes that outcome unlikely, even as the charges are contested in higher courts.
Since his removal from power in a 2022 parliamentary vote of no confidence, Khan has been embroiled in numerous legal battles. He claims the cable central to this case reveals a conspiracy by the Pakistani military and the U.S. government to topple his government, especially after he visits Moscow just before Russia invades Ukraine. Both Washington and the Pakistan military have denied these accusations.
Khan has also stated that the contents of the cable were already in the media from other sources. Earlier this month, his party suffered another blow when a court upheld the Election Commission's decision to revoke PTI's traditional election symbol, the cricket bat. His candidates are now running as independents, amid what the party describes as a crackdown supported by the country's military, a claim the military denies.