‘Reasonable grounds exist’ to link Imran Khan with alleged May 9 offences: ATC

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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan being brought to a court amid tight security in this undated picture. — AFP/File
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan being brought to a court amid tight security in this undated picture. — AFP/File
  • “Criminal conspiracy for riots hatched in Zaman Park meeting”
  • “Imran Khan himself ordered to attack military installations”.
  • Court rejects the allegations of “political victimisation”.

LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has issued a written verdict on dismissing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan’s bails in cases related to May 9, 2023, riots.

ATC Judge Khalid Arshad issued a four-page written verdict on Thursday after his court rejected interim bail pleas of the former prime minister in three cases related to the May 9 violent protests two days ago.

The May 9 mayhem referred to the riots that broke out in many parts of the country last year following the ex-PM’s arrest in a corruption case.

The alleged PTI supporters attacked several state buildings including military installations, prompting the civil and military authorities to try the rioters under Army Act.

The verdict stated that two witnesses produced by the prosecution told the court in their testimonies that a meeting was held at Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore on May 7, 2023, which they also attended along with 15 senior leaders of the former ruling party.

In the meeting, the petitioner [Imran Khan] expressed fears about his arrest in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on May 9, the verdict read, adding that the politico also ordered the PTI leaders to gather the party workers under the leadership of Dr Yasmin Rashid in case of his arrest.

The party leaders, in the same meeting, was instructed by the petitioner to “attack military installations, government properties and the police officials to create pressure on the government and armed institutions for his release”, the verdict read.

Furthermore, the deposed premier also recorded a video message to incite the party workers, saying: “If he is arrested, the condition of the country will be worsened like that of Sri Lanka”. The clip was produced by the prosecution along with its transcript.

“Actually the case of the prosecution against the petitioner is that he hatched the alleged criminal conspiracy which was agreed by the top leadership/accused and the same was conveyed through modern devices especially online to the protesters/accused who in result of the alleged instigation, launched attack, entered forcibly in Jinnah House and set it on fire while waging war against the State intending to over-awe the government,” it read.

The ATC verdict stated that the “recovery of alleged articles used for the recording of video messages of instigation is to be affected from the petitioner”.

The court also rejected the allegations of “political victimisation” on behalf of the petitioner, terming it the claims were “not appealing to prudent mind”.

“A peaceful demonstrator becomes terrorist when he hatched criminal conspiracy, disseminate it and shared common object with other accused who being armed attack, attempt to damage or damage the state properties like Jinnah House intending to jam government machinery as per Sec.6 Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and he loses his normal rights of a law abiding citizen,” the court observed.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the ATC stated in its verdict that Khan’s “pre-arrest bail has no merits and is hereby dismissed while withdrawing his already granted interim bail” as “reasonable grounds exist to connect the petitioner with the alleged offences”.

Cases against ex-PM Khan

The deposed prime minister, who was ousted from power via the opposition’s no-confidence motion in April 2022, has been facing a slew of charges ranging from corruption to terrorism since his removal as premier.

He has been behind bars since August last year after he was sentenced in the Toshakhana case and subsequently sentenced in other cases ahead of the February 8 elections.

Khan secured relief in the other cases, including £190 million reference and Toshakhana, and was acquitted in the cipher case last month.

However, he remains behind bars due to his conviction in the iddat (un-Islamic nikah) case only.

Pleading before the Lahore’s ATC, the government had demanded Khan’s arrest in all three cases, including the Jinnah House case, saying his arrest was essential for interrogation.

The rejection of bail pleas came as PTI was hoping for Khan’s release from prison this month as district and sessions court in Islamabad is expected to announce verdict on the PTI founder’s main appeal challenging conviction in the iddat case.

The former premier along with his spouse Bushra Bibi is currently serving seven-year jail term each at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail after the couple was convicted in the iddat case on February 3, 2024.

Last month, the sessions court turned down the pleas of the ex-premier and his wife to suspend their seven-year sentences in the iddat case.

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