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Islamists Warn Of Consequences As Pakistani Court Hears Christian Woman’s Blasphemy Appeal


FILE: Khadim Hussain Rizvi, ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, gestures as he speaks to media in Lahore in July.

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

It was not clear whether the three-judge bench will issue its ruling on Asia Bibi's case on October 8.

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.

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

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

Bibi, a mother of four, was sentenced to hang after being convicted of making derogatory remarks about Islam, a charge she denies.

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

"If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences," the Islamist party Tehreek-i-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