A Pakistani court on Tuesday sentenced former prime minister Imran Khan and one of his party deputies to 10 years in prison each, after finding them guilty of revealing official secrets.
According to Zulfiqar Bukhari, spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, the court announced the verdict at a prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
Khan, who was ousted through a no-confidence vote in Parliament in April 2022, is currently serving a three-year prison sentence in a corruption case.
According to Zulfiqar Bukhari, chief spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, the verdict was announced by a special court set up at the prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where Khan is held.
Authorities said Khan and his deputy, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who also received a 10-year sentence, have the right to appeal Tuesday’s ruling in the case, popularly known as the Cipher.
Khan’s legal team was planning to appeal the conviction before the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday.
The latest development comes ahead of the February 8 parliamentary elections in Pakistan – a vote that Khan is barred from running in because of his previous criminal conviction.
Although Khan will not be on the ballot for the February 8 election, he remains a potent political force because of his grassroots following and anti-establishment rhetoric.
He says the legal cases against him were a plot to sideline him ahead of the vote.
Pakistan has seen violent demonstrations since after Khan’s May 2023 arrest. Authorities have cracked down on his supporters and party since then.
Pakistan’s independent human rights commission has said there is little chance of a free and fair parliamentary election next month because of “pre-poll rigging.”
It also expressed concern about authorities rejecting the candidacies of Khan and senior figures from his party.
In the Cipher case, Khan is alleged to have waved a confidential document – a classified cable – at a rally after he was toppled.
The document has not been made public by either the government or Khan’s lawyers, but was apparently diplomatic correspondence between the Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad.
During the speech, Khan claimed the document was proof he was being threatened and that his removal was a US conspiracy, allegedly executed by the military and the government in Pakistan.
Washington and Pakistani officials have denied the claim.
Khan’s party said in a statement that it stands with Khan and Qureshi, “who defended Pakistan and stood for real independence”.
PTI described the proceedings as a “sham trial” and said the judge did not even allow Khan and Qureshi’s lawyers to defend them.