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Pak Court Reserves Verdict On Christian Woman's Appeal Against Execution
From Indian news NDTV
Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court today reserved its judgement on the final appeal against the execution of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case.
A special three-member bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel reserved the verdict on the appeal of the mother of five against the execution. Chief Justice Nisar cautioned the media against commenting on or discussing the case until the detailed judgement has been issued.
No date has been announced by the court about when it will announce the verdict on the appeal.
Earlier, Asia Bibi's lawyer Saiful Mulook briefed the court that the case based on a verbal clash between Bibi and a group of Muslim women was filed by a prayer leader of Katanwala in Nankana Sahib. He said the June 14, 2009 incident was reported on June 19.
"Are these things on the record?" the chief justice asked.
Mr Mulook said no permission to file the FIR was taken from the district coordination officer or the district police officer, which was against the law. The lawyer also highlighted the contradictory statements of the Muslim women witnesses.
"What we can conclude from your statements is that the prayer leader himself did not witness the incident as it happened," Justice Khosa observed. "No blasphemous language was uttered in the presence of the prayer leader."
"The witness testimonies did not state that she had used blasphemous language for the Quran," he (Asia Bibi's lawyer Saiful Mulook) said. "No blasphemous words were used at all. Asia, in her statement, said that she could not even conceive of committing blasphemy," Mr Mulook was quoted as saying by the paper. "She simply had an argument with two women. During that argument, they exchanged harsh words," the lawyer said.
Asia Bibi's case hit the headlines after former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who spoke out in support of her, was killed in 2011 in Islamabad by his police guard Mumtaz Qadri who was executed in 2016 for murder.
The top court last time took up her appeal in October 2016, but had to adjourn it without hearing after one of the judges recused himself.
If the top court bench eventually upholds Asia Bibi's conviction, her only recourse will be a direct appeal to the president for clemency. If that fails, Asia Bibi could become the first person in Pakistan to be executed under blasphemy laws which were enacted by former military ruler Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s.
Asia Bibi has already spent eight years in prison and her family has been subjected to continuous threats and harassment.