The former leader, who was deposed in a vote of no confidence in April 2022, faces a possible prison sentence of 14 years.

A Pakistani court has reportedly indicted Imran Khan for leaking state secrets. The charges add to the enormous legal turmoil the former prime minister has faced since his ouster in April 2022.

“He was charged today and the charges were read out publicly,” said Shah Khawar of the Federal Investigation Agency outside Islamabad’s Adiala Prison, where Khan is being held, Pakistani broadcaster Geo TV reported on Monday.

Khan’s former deputy Shah Mahmood Qureshi was also charged in the state secrets case.

A spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party said the men had been charged in a closed-door trial under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, adding that the verdict would be “appealed.”

Khan, who led Pakistan from August 2018 to April 2022, is accused of leaking a diplomatic letter between Washington and Islamabad that he says points to the role of the United States in forcing him from office. The US and Pakistan have rejected the claim.

Khan, a former cricket star turned politician with a large grassroots base in the South Asian nation, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April 2022 over allegations of economic mismanagement.

His downfall came after he fell out with the country’s powerful military establishment and tried to dissolve parliament, an act the country’s Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. He has since faced a series of criminal charges in cases ranging from terrorism to contempt of court to blasphemy.

Despite his ouster – and the criminal allegations – Khan continues to enjoy strong popular support. After he was briefly detained in May 2023, his supporters took to the streets in nationwide protests, some of which turned violent.

A supporter of Khan throws stones at police during a protest against the PTI leader’s arrest in Peshawar on May 10, 2023 [Fayaz Aziz/Reuters]

The Pakistani military responded with a crackdown, rounding up thousands of Khan’s supporters and forcing almost the entire PTI leadership underground. Many have now left the party.

In August, Khan was convicted of corruption and sentenced to three years in prison. Although those charges were later stayed, he remained behind bars pending a court decision on his state secrets charge. He will also not be allowed to run in the upcoming elections in January 2024.

Khan’s latest charge of leaking confidential information carries a far harsher sentence of 14 years in prison and, in extreme cases, the death penalty, according to his lawyers.

From prison, Khan said he was “stronger than ever” and attacked his opponents, who he says are trying to oust him from the political scene once and for all.

“Don’t give up,” Khan told his supporters in a statement earlier this month. “Continue to raise your voice at every forum against this unelected predatory group and its supporters and continue to demand fair and transparent elections in the country.”

On Saturday, Khan’s main political rival, three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, returned to Pakistan, ending four years of self-imposed exile as he attempts a comeback in January 2024 elections. While Sharif is also barred from taking part in elections, analysts say legal hurdles are likely to be cleared as part of a backroom deal between his party and the army.

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