IHC quashes terrorism charges against Imran

ISLAMABAD: The high court in Islamabad on Monday quashed terrorism charges against former prime minister Imran Khan, his lawyers said, a relief for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairperson who has faced a spate of legal woes since being ousted from office in April.

The court said Khan’s alleged offence didn’t attract terrorism sections of the law, Faisal Chaudhry, one of his lawyers told Reuters.

The charges followed a speech Khan gave in Islamabad last month in which he vowed to sue the chief of Islamabad police and a junior judge, and alleged that Shehbaz Gill, his chief of staff, had been tortured and subjected to sexual abuse after his arrest.

On Monday, a two-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz, announced the verdict on a request made by the party to quash the case.

“The case against Imran Khan, however, will remain intact, that will now be tried in an ordinary court, instead of an anti-terrorism court,” Chaudhry said.

“This is actually an order to quash the charges,” another of his lawyers, Babar Awan, told Reuters, adding: “It only proves that these are trumped up charges, and just a tool for political victimisation.”

Islamabad police brought the charges against Khan in August after his public remarks. Khan subsequently explained that his remarks were not meant to be a threat.

Prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi told the court the police investigation found that Khan’s remarks were “threatening” and, therefore, terrorism charges were applicable to the politician.

However, defence lawyer Salman Safdar argued the statements were about taking legal action against the judge and the police chief.

The chief justice observed that provisions of terrorism were misused in the past, referring to the 2018 case of former senator Faisal Raza Abidi of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), who was acquitted of the charges the following year.

Critics of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 say the law helps security forces skirt constitutional protections for defendants while governments also used it for political purposes.

Khan has faced several cases since his ousting in April in a vote of confidence won by opposition parties in an effort led by his successor, Shehbaz Sharif.

One of the cases is at a crucial stage in the high court, which is slated to indict Khan on Sept 22 in a contempt of court case for threatening the judicial officer. If convicted, he could face disqualification from politics for at least five years.

Another case involves foreign funding for his party that an election tribunal found unlawful.

Since his ousting, he has held nationwide rallies to demand snap polls, but the ruling coalition has refused it, saying the election will be held as scheduled by the end of 2023.

— With input from Reuters, AP

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