The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday approved the post-arrest bail of PTI Senator Azam Swati, who has been in detention since late November over his controversial tweets about senior military officers.

Swati was arrested on November 27 after the FIA booked him in Islamabad over a “highly obnoxious campaign of intimidating tweets […] against state institutions”. It was the second time that Swati was booked and arrested by the FIA over his tweets about army officials in less than two months.

Earlier this month, the senator approached a special court in Islamabad for bail. However, Special Judge Central Azam Khan dismissed the plea ruling that he had “committed the same offence twice”.

Subsequently, Swati filed a post-arrest bail petition through his lawyer Babar Awan in the IHC, challenging the special court’s orders.

At the previous hearing, the IHC — after taking up the petition — issued notices to the state and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

During the hearing today, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq resumed hearing the PTI senator’s petition and barred the FIA from arresting him. The court approved Swati’s bail against the submission of surety bonds worth Rs200,000.

TODAY’S HEARING: At the outset of the hearing today, Swati’s counsel Babar Awan told the court that Osman Swati — the senator’s son — wanted to present his stance.

“My father has written a letter from the jail requesting the case to be transferred to another IHC bench. Today I want to read this letter out loud in the courtroom,” Osman said.

However, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq contended that the court had received the letter. “It is in front of us […] we have decided to form a larger bench on this matter.

“We want to settle this issue […] the letter says that a judge is biased,” he said, adding that such letters were not seen by the court publicly. “Only a larger bench can solve this [matter] now.”

For his part, Awan requested the judge to “see the matter today” but Justice Farooq said most of the senior judges were on vacation. “We will form a larger bench next week.”

Here, the PTI counsel said that Osman, on Awan’s request, had decided to “take back” his father’s letter — addressed to the court.

Subsequently, the lawyer presented his arguments before the court, saying that the respectable court of Sindh and Balochistan had quashed the cases against Swati.

“All these complaints against him [Swati] have been taken out from pockets. I have never seen an FIR (first information report) in which the time and place are not mentioned,” Awan stated.

He also gave examples of previous cases in which politicians were granted bail on medical grounds.

Subsequently, Justice Farooq asked the FIA lawyer for his stance on the matter. In his response, he requested that the hearing should be adjourned as the special prosecutor was not present in court.

However, the court dismissed his request and reserved its verdict on Swati’s bail plea.

The petition states that Swati was “falsely implicated due to political influences of a hostile regime” and the cases against him were registered with “malafide intention”.

It recalled that Swati was earlier remanded into FIA’s custody but nothing “incriminating” was recovered from him and hence he was sent to jail on judicial remand.

The petition pointed out that the senator was abducted from the Pims Hospital later — where he was taken for medical treatment — in the “aircraft of IG Police Balochistan”. “However, during the course of physical remand, the honourable Balochistan High Court was pleased to quash all the FIRs [registered against him] in two petitions.”

The BHC had also barred the police from filing further cases against him.

“But he [Swati] was again kidnapped in other FIRs lodged against him in Sindh,” the petition said, adding later on the Singh High Court (SHC) had placed all the FIRs against him in C-class.

It contended that the entire case against Swati consisted of a “documented allegation” and that there was no “useful purpose” of keeping him in custody.

“The investigation in the case has already been completed and the petitioner is no more required for the purpose of investigation.”

The plea also pointed out that the “alleged tweets were not posted by the petitioner nor he had any intention to defame any respectable institution” and that the prosecution had no evidence against him.

Subsequently, it requested that Swati should be granted post-arrest bail till the conclusion of the trial “in the best interest of justice”.

Swati was first arrested by the FIA on charges of posting controversial tweets about the armed forces in October and was later released on bail.

The senator has alleged since that he was tortured in custody and demanded the removal of two military officials, one of whom he used foul language against in his tweet on November 26.

On November 27, the FIA arrested Swati for the second time over a “highly obnoxious campaign of intimidating tweets […] against state institutions”.

The arrest came after an FIR was registered by the FIA on the complaint of the state through Islamabad Cyber Crime Reporting Centre Technical Assistant Aneesur Rehman.

The complaint was registered under Section 20 of Peca as well as Sections 131 (abetting mutiny or attempting to seduce a soldier from his duty),500 (punishment for defamation), 501 (defamation and printing of content deemed defamatory), Section 505 (statement conducing to public mischief) and 109 (abetment) of the PPC.

Following his arrest in November, the Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority prohibited Swati’s media coverage on all satellite TV channels.

Separate FIRs were also registered against the PTI leader in Balochistan and Sindh as well.

On December 2, Swati was brought to Quetta from Islamabad in one such case, registered at the Kuchlak police station, a day after a court in the capital approved his 14-day judicial remand.

But on December 9, the Balochistan High Court ordered the quashing of all five cases initially registered against him in the province.

Hours after the order was issued, the PTI senator was handed over to Sindh police while his lawyer said two new cases were registered against Swati in Balochistan. Later, another case was registered against Swati in Balochistan.

The cases were registered under Sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc), 124A (sedition), and 123A (condemnation of the creation of the State, and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty) of the PPC.

On December 13, the SHC restrained police from arresting Swati in cases registered against him within the limits of SHC’s Hyderabad registry and Karachi and on December 15, the SHC directed provincial authorities to disposed of all cases against Swati as C-Class.

At the same hearing, the Sindh prosecutor general had informed the court that Swati had been shifted back to Islamabad, where his judicial remand was extended for another 15 days in the FIA case.

Recently, the BHC ordered the quashing of three remaining FIRs registered against the senator in the province.

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