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The Pakistan Supreme Court's decision in October to overturn Asia Bibi's blasphemy conviction ignited days of violent demonstrations. (file photo)

A radical Islamist party has called for protests across the country after Pakistan's Supreme Court rejected a challenge to its decision to acquit a Christian woman at the center of a years-long dispute over blasphemy charges.

The leader of the Tehreek-e Labaik Pakistan party (TLP), Mohammad Shafiq Amini, on January 30 called for supporters to head back into the streets this weekend after police arrested hundreds of them a day earlier when the court decision was handed down.

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

The Supreme Court's decision in October 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 TLP, charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism.

She was originally convicted in 2010 after being accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam in a row with her neighbors.

Bibi has always maintained her innocence.

Bibi has said she will leave the country as soon as her legal battles are over. Her daughters have reportedly taken refuge in Canada.

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.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP and Reuters
All of the activists are members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation. Clockwise from top left: Sam Rajabi, Houman Jokar, Niloufar Bayani, Morad Tahbaz, Kavous Seyed-Emami, Taher Ghadirian, Amirhossein Khaleghi, and Sepideh Kashani (not pictured Adbolreza Kouhpayeh)

Eight Iranian environmentalists accused of spying appeared in a Tehran court on January 30 for a closed-door trial, local media report.

Mohammad-Hossein Aghasi, a representative of one of the accused, said that he was not present in court as the state designated its own handpicked lawyers to represent the defendants, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Four of the defendants were charged last year with “sowing corruption on Earth,” a charge that can carry the death sentence in Iran.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi has claimed the activists were “seeking proximity to military sites with the cover of the environmental projects and obtaining military information from them.”

Three other activists are accused of espionage and the last one has been charged with "conspiracy against national security," IRNA reported.

Human Rights Watch in October called the accusations against the eight environmentalists “ridiculous.”

“With the judiciary serving as one of the main cornerstones in Iran’s apparatus of repression, there is a major risk that they won’t get a fair trial,” the New York-based human rights watchdog said in a statement.

Kavous Seyed Emami died in prison under unclear circumstances.
Kavous Seyed Emami died in prison under unclear circumstances.

The environmental activists who went on trial are Taher Ghadirian, Niloufar Bayani, Amirhossein Khaleghi, Houman Jokar, Sam Rajabi, Sepideh Kashani, Morad Tahbaz, and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh -- all members of a local environmental group, the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

The 63-year-old managing director of the group, Kavous Seyed Emami, was also detained but died in prison under disputed circumstances.

The Judiciary said the Iranian-Canadian sociology professor committed suicide. The claim has been questioned by his family and acquaintances.

The Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation works to protect endangered animals and raise public awareness about the environment.

With reporting by AFP, IRNA, and Fars

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