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Top Pakistani Court Sets Date For Hearing On Christian Woman

FILE: Pakistanis protest the release of Asia Bibi
FILE: Pakistanis protest the release of Asia Bibi

Pakistan's Supreme Court will decide on January 29 whether to allow an appeal against its acquittal of a Christian woman at the center of a blasphemy row, a lawyer for the woman has said.

If the court refuses to allow the appeal, it will remove the last legal hurdle facing Asia Bibi, who remains in protective custody at a secret location.

Bibi was on death row for eight years 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 Islamists calling for her killing, 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 party -- the Islamist group driving the violent protests -- charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism.

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

On January 29, "the court will determine if our appeal against her acquittal is admitted", Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the lawyer who filed the petition seeking an appeal, said on January 24.

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

With reporting by AP and AFP