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Pakistani court rejects ex-PM Imran Khan's bail plea in case related to leaking state secrets

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court on Thursday rejected the bail plea of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on charges of leaking state secrets, his lawyer said.

Khan is accused of exposing an official secret document, dubbed Cipher, when he waved a confidential diplomatic letter at a rally last year.

It was apparently correspondence between a Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. Khan told the rally it was proof that his removal from power in April 2022 was a conspiracy.

After a private hearing, Judge Abul Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain dismissed the plea under the Official Secrets Act.

Zulqarnain made no immediate remarks on his rejection of Khan's plea. He said at the hearing that “irrelevant persons” like journalists and lawyers not connected with the case were to leave the room at the request of the government prosecutor.

Khan's lawyer Naeem Panjutha denounced the decision to refuse bail. “The facts of the case are crystal clear and merited a favorable decision from the court,” said Panjutha.

On Monday, a court extended Khan's remand in the Cipher case until Sept. 26.

The cricketer-turned-politician, aged 70, was booted out of power through a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He accuses the Pakistani military and the U.S. of being behind his ouster. They deny the allegation.

Since Khan’s exit, more than 150 cases have been filed against him by various government agencies on charges ranging from contempt of court to terrorism and inciting violence. He is in a high-security prison in eastern Punjab province serving a three-year sentence on corruption charges.

Critics say efforts to keep the divisive politician behind bars are politically motivated and have intensified ahead of general elections to be held later this year.

They argue that Khan’s popularity and a large support base, combined with his ability to mobilize massive crowds, pose a threat to the political elite and their backers in the military.