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Pakistan Court Hears Christian Woman’s Death-Row Blasphemy Appeal


Asia Bibi sits inside the central jail in Sheikhupura in Punjab Province in November 2010.
Asia Bibi sits inside the central jail in Sheikhupura in Punjab Province in November 2010.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has heard what media describe as the final appeal of a Christian woman who has been on death row since 2010 on a blasphemy conviction.

The three-judge bench listened to Asia Bibi's defense lawyer challenge statements by those who accused her of making derogatory remarks about Islam.

"We are hopeful for justice," lawyer Saiful Malook said after the hearing.

The judicial panel did not indicate when the court would announce its ruling on the case.

In 2010, Bibi was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy laws in a case that has generated global headlines and indignation.

Bibi, a mother of four, denies the charges.

Radical Islamists have rallied against the women and threatened to kill her if she is released.

Ahead of the court hearing, Malook said he was "100 percent sure she will be acquitted," adding that his client had a "very good case."

Meanwhile, a hard-line Pakistani Islamist party warned of "terrible consequences" if she is granted leniency in her appeal.

"If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences," the Islamist party Tehrik-e Labaik said in an October 8 statement.

While Pakistan's laws carry the death penalty for blasphemy and offenders have been sentenced to death, no convict has been executed so far.

People charged with blasphemy but later freed have had to flee the country for their safety.

Lawyers, judges, and those seeking to reform the blasphemy laws have also been threatened, attacked, or even killed.

At least 1,472 people were charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2016, according to the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice.

It said Muslims constituted a majority of those prosecuted, followed by members of the Ahmadi, Christian, and Hindu minorities.

Rights groups say the laws are increasingly exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and Dawn
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