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Cipher case: Statements of two accused to be recorded, PTI in IHC against state defence counsel

RAWALPINDI (PEN) – The statements of the two accused – PTI founding chairman and his close associate Shah Mehmood Qureshi – would be recorded during the hearing of the cipher case today (Tuesday), as the court held a swift hearing of the matter despite the delaying tactics used by the defence.

The move comes after questionnaires were prepared to record their statements under Section 342 as the court resumed the hearing of the eagerly-watched case.

On the other hand, the PTI moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to challenge the appointment of state defence counsel for the two accused in the cipher case, requesting it to declare the special court’s Jan 26 orders.

Earlier on Monday, a lengthy hearing of the cipher case was held by the special court established under the Official Secrets Act in Adiala jail during which cross-examination of 11 witnesses was completed.

During the hearing conducted by Abual Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain, the special court judge, a total of 25 witnesses were presented before the court.

The prominent names among those cross-examined by the two sets of lawyers include former foreign secretary Sohail Mehmood, former principal secretary to the PM Azam Khan, former Interior Secretary Yusuf Naseem Khokhar, interior secretary Aftab Akbar Durrani and former ambassador to the United States Asad Majeed.

Earlier in the day, the cipher case proceedings were again disrupted as the two accused got angry and started shouting.

As the situation worsened, the special court judge opted for a temporary break after which the hearing started again.
Qureshi objected to the state-appointed defence counsel during cross-examination, expressing difficulty attending court in the current situation. PTI lawyer Salman Safdar noted that the Islamabad High Court had deemed the trial invalid, yet the case persisted in this court for the third time.

During the previous hearing on Saturday, the special court judge – Abual Hasnat Mohammad Zulqarnain – decided to appoint state counsel for representing the two accused, as the defence lawyers again failed to appear before the court.

The move triggered chaos in the court as the accused reacted angrily, forcing the special court judge –to warn them.

It was Qureshi who first snatched the file of the case from the state defence counsel [the lawyer provided by the court to a defence party] and threw it away while also resorting to shouting. Similarly, the PTI former chairman used insulting language against the judge during the hearing held at the Adiala jail.

According to the court decision, Malik Abdul Rehman and Hazrat Younus would represent the PTI founding chairman and Qureshi respectively as the state defence counsel and cross examine the prosecution witnesses.

On Friday, Raja Rizwan Abbasi – the FIA prosecutor – had requested the special court established under the Official Secrets Act to close the defence counsel’s right of cross-examination, saying the defence was applying delaying tactics to prolong the trial.

He said one of the witnesses had come from the UAE to attend the court proceedings, but the defence counsel did not bother to come to the court.