Accessibility links

Breaking News

Watchdog

Asia Bibi was on death row for eight years after being convicted of blasphemy. (file photo)

Pakistan's Supreme Court is due to decide on January 29 whether to uphold its acquittal of a Christian woman at the center of a years-long blasphemy row.

Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook, said he expected the judges to reject a petition by Islamists for a review of their decision last year to acquit her.

For Bibi, who has been in protective custody at a secret location since her acquittal in October, the court's decision could represent the final legal hurdle to her freedom.

Bibi spent eight years on death row for blasphemy, a hugely sensitive charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn her conviction ignited days of violent demonstrations, with radical Islamists calling for her killing as well as mutiny within the powerful military and the assassination of the country's top judges.

The government has since launched a crackdown on the Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party -- the Islamist group driving the violent protests -- charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism.

But authorities also agreed to allow a final review of the Supreme Court's judgement.

The TLP party said on January 28 that it would not accept any decision in favor of Bibi's release and asked its followers to prepare for more protests.

Police have stepped up security around the Supreme Court in Islamabad ahead of the judges' decision.

Bibi has always claimed her innocence and said she will leave the country as soon as her legal battles are over. Her daughters have fled to Canada, where they have been given asylum.

Her lawyer also fled Pakistan after receiving death threats but returned to the country ahead of the Supreme Court's decision.

Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

With reporting by AP and AFP
Kaakh authorities say Artur Trofimov is suspected of embezzling and laundering significant amounts of cash from the BTA bank. (file photo)

Uzbekistan has extradited a man suspected of embezzlement to neighboring Kazakhstan, the latest development in a politically-charged case involving the Kazakh bank BTA.

The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office said on January 28 that Artur Trofimov was suspected of embezzling and laundering significant amounts of cash from BTA in 2005-2009.

It said that Trofimov, whose citizenship was not disclosed, is also suspected of creating and leading an organized criminal group.

In 2005-2009, the head of BTA bank was Mukhtar Ablyazov, a vocal critic of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev who is now a fugitive and lives in France.

In 2017, a court in Kazakhstan convicted Ablyazov in absentia of embezzlement, abuse of office, and organizing a criminal group, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In a separate case, Ablyazov was convicted in November 2018 of organizing the 2004 murder of Erzhan Tatishev, the head of the TuranAlem bank, which was later renamed BTA. He was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

Ablyazov denies all the charges, saying they are politically motivated, and has called the claim that he ordered Tatishev's killing a "lie."

Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbaev, who has held power in the energy-producing Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.

Load more

About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

Subscribe

Journalists In Trouble

RFE/RL journalists take risks, face threats, and make sacrifices every day in an effort to gather the news. Our "Journalists In Trouble" page recognizes their courage and conviction, and documents the high price that many have paid simply for doing their jobs. More

XS
SM
MD
LG