DUBAI: The authorities in Dubai refused to entertain an attempt to lodge a case of criminal defamation suit on behalf of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan by his lawyer here – due to lack of evidence.
Imran Khan, the former prime minister, announced in December last year that he instructed his lawyer in Dubai Hassan Aslam to file a defamation suit and criminal proceedings in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) against Geo News, its anchor Shahzeb Khanzada and Dubai-based businessman Umer Farooq Zahoor.
Authoritative sources have confirmed that Hassan Aslam Shad had contacted Barsha police station earlier this year to register the case as announced by Imran Khan but the Dubai police refused to entertain the request due to a lack of evidence and failure of the lawyer to establish merits of the case under the UAE laws.
It was nearly three months ago on Dec 17 last year when former premier Imran Khan said in a tweet: “My UAE lawyers led by Hassan Shad have now filed criminal defamation (libel and slander) proceedings under the UAE law against Geo TV, Shahzeb Khanzada and fraudster Umer Farooq Zahoor.”
Responding to Imran Khan’s tweet, lawyer Hassan Shad said on Twitter: “Alhumdulillah, it is a great honor & privilege for me to fight for my leader & the last hope for millions of Pakistanis. This is a huge responsibility on my shoulders. May Allah Almighty enable us to expose all hypocrites and show their true face to the world.”
Three months later, Imran Khan’s lawyer failed to initiate “criminal defamation (libel and slander) proceedings under the UAE laws” against Umar Farooq Zahoor, Geo TV and Geo news anchor Shahzeb Khanzada.
The News and Geo sent several requests to Hassan Aslam Shad seeking an update and his version for this story but he read messages on Whatsapp and didn’t respond to the questions. The development came after Umar Zahoor claimed in Shahzeb Khanzada’s TV show that Imran Khan’s people sold an expensive wristwatch in 2019 — gifted to the former premier by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman — for $2 million, worth around Rs280 million at the time of the sale. The businessman also claimed some PTI members wanted to sell the watch for $4 million to $5 million, but after negotiations, he purchased it for $2 million. He said the payments were made in cash at Farah Khan’s insistence.
In UAE, defamation comes under criminal law, not under civil law. A criminal complaint can be filed for defamation against an individual or organisation under Articles 371 to 380 of the UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987. In case the defendant is found guilty under the Penal Code, they can expect a jail term of up to two years or a fine of up to AED20,000. Any person who intends to file a complaint must start at the police level and then move for public prosecution. Any defamation victim has the right to complain to the police station within three months after the victim became aware of the crime. A complaint can be registered online or at the police station. The case will then be referred to the public prosecutor for charges under the applicable Penal Code and Defamation Law of the UAE. The prosecutor must question the accused in the first 48 hours of the filing of the complaint. In the case of Imran Khan’s lawyer, the test was not met at the first stage and, therefore, the complaint didn’t proceed.
Imran Khan’s lawyer in the UK sent a pre-action protocol letter to Geo News in London around three weeks after Shahzeb Khanzada’s show was aired on November 15, 2022, although no defamation claim has yet been issued. Geo News editorial and legal team firmly believe the pre- and post-broadcast journalistic norms of objectivity and fairness were met in the content and series of the shows, and are confident that they have a robust defence to any claim for defamation. GEO News has invited Imran Khan and his team to appear on the show to provide their version of the Toshakhana issue, however, to date no appropriate response has been provided.