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Pakistan’s Imran Khan is acquitted of leaking state secrets

A Pakistani appeals court on Monday acquitted former Prime Minister Imran Khan of leaking state secrets, his lawyer said, though the popular opposition leader will remain behind bars as he serves several prison terms and awaits a slew of cases pending against him.

Khan was convicted in January of treason and sentenced to 10 years over an incident, popularly known as the cipher case, in which he was accused of exposing state secrets by waving a confidential document at a protest rally.

The government has not made the document public, but it is believed to be diplomatic correspondence between the Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.

Khan claimed the document was proof he was being threatened and that his ouster in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 was a US conspiracy, allegedly executed by the military and the government in Pakistan. American and Pakistani officials have denied the claim.

Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician who served as prime minister from 2018 until his ouster, remains a popular opposition figure.

The Islamabad High Court did not elaborate on Monday’s acquittal. Its order calls for the January judgement to be set aside, though the prosecutors can appeal the acquittal.

“He shall be released forthwith, if not incarcerated in any other case,” the order concluded.

One of Khan’s lawyers, Intazar Hussain Panjutha, welcomed the ruling and said the prosecution was unable to prove their case in open court.

Though a victory, the development changes nothing for Khan, who will remain behind bars. He has been convicted in four cases him and awaits other trials, with more than 150 lawsuits filed against him since his ouster .

Last year, Pakistan witnessed violent demonstrations after his arrest and the government has heavily clamped down on his supporters and party ever since.

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