Imran Khan acquitted of leaking state secrets but remains in jail

A high court in Pakistan has overturned the conviction of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on charges of leaking state secrets, his lawyer and party officials said on Monday. Despite this legal victory, Khan will remain incarcerated due to a separate conviction.

Khan, 71, was sentenced by a lower court to 10 years in prison for allegedly disclosing a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington in 2022. He has been imprisoned since August of last year.

Challenging the conviction, Khan appealed to the Islamabad High Court, which ruled on Monday in his favor. “The instant appeal is allowed,” the court stated, acquitting Khan of the charges. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Khan’s foreign minister from 2018 to 2022, was also acquitted.

“Thank God, the sentence is overturned,” said Naeem Panjutha, a spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, in a post on the social media platform X shortly after the court’s decision.

Khan has claimed that the classified cable was evidence of a conspiracy involving the Pakistani military and the U.S. government to overthrow his administration in 2022, following his visit to Moscow just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both Washington and Pakistan’s military have denied these accusations.

The state secrets case is one of four in which Khan has faced convictions ahead of Pakistan’s national election in February. Sentences in two of these cases have been suspended pending appeal.

Despite Monday’s acquittal, Khan, a former cricket star, will remain in jail to serve a seven-year sentence related to his marriage to his third wife, Bushra Khan, also known as Bushra Bibi, which allegedly contravened Islamic traditions. A ruling on their appeal was postponed last week after a judge recused himself following an accusation of bias from Bibi’s former husband, according to Khan’s lawyers.

“We will celebrate this victory,” said Ali Zafar, another of Khan’s lawyers, in a television interview. He expressed confidence that Khan would be acquitted in the remaining cases as well.