A special court in Pakistan on Tuesday handed a 10-year jail sentence to the country’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan in connection with the cipher case, Dawn reported.

Khan’s aide and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was also sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in the same case.

The cipher case relates to a diplomatic document that was in Khan’s possession when he was the prime minister. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency has alleged that the cipher was never returned by Khan after he was ousted from power in April 2022, according to Dawn.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has for long claimed that the document contained a threat from the United States demanding that he be ousted.

This comes days ahead of the country’s general elections on February 8. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which was the largest party in the previous National Assembly elections in 2018, has been forced to field its candidates as independents after the country’s Supreme Court blocked the party from using its electoral symbol.

Confirming the jail sentence handed to its two top leaders, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf said that it was a “sham case with no access to media or the public”.

“Legal team will challenge the decision in a higher court and hopefully will get this sentence suspended, given the poor proceedings of a case when Islamabad High Court had clearly annulled proceedings twice, ordered access to media and public but on the contrary, access of legal team was denied, and decision reached in a haste,” the party said, according to Indian news agency PTI.

Khan was ousted from power after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament in April 2022. He has repeatedly claimed that the vote in the Pakistani parliament was part of a “foreign conspiracy” to topple his government.

The cricketer-turned-politician had become the prime minister in August 2018.

He was arrested in May during a court appearance in Islamabad for his alleged involvement in a corruption case. His arrest had sparked nationwide protests by his supporters. The protestors had attacked military buildings, including the home of the senior-most military commander in Lahore, alleging that the Pakistani Army was responsible for Khan’s arrest.

Qureshi was arrested in the cipher case on December 27.

More than 100 legal cases have been filed against Khan since his ouster. He has alleged that these charges against him are politically motivated.