Lawyer confident Aasia Bibi will walk free soon

The judgment is fully in line with the law and constitution of the country, says Saiful Mulook. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2018

Lawyer confident Aasia Bibi will walk free soon

  • While unlawful, it's wrong to term deal between government and protestors as a "surrender", Mulook says
  • Christian woman's husband appeals to US, UK and Canada to help family exit Pakistan

KARACHI/LONDON: Reasoning that a petition to review a Supreme Court verdict, in the case of a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy, would have no impact on the judgement taken last week, Aasia Bibi's lawyer said on Monday that he expected her to be freed soon.

Saiful Mulook added that this is because Bibi, 51, has already been declared innocent by Pakistan’s top court.

“It is not a rehearing of the case where evidence will be presented again. The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has to show from the judgement what they think is incorrect," Mulook told Arab News on phone, after addressing a press conference in Netherlands, on Monday.

He added that in any review petition, there are five percent chances of the verdict being in favor of the petitioner. However, in Bibi's case, there are zero percent chances that the judgment may be reversed.

To explain his point, the counsel maintained that in review petitions, it is the judgment which is reviewed and not the evidence. “The judges have already written upto five pages each discussing every evidence in this landmark judgment,” he told Arab News.

“The judgment is fully in line with the law and constitution of the country, but the clerics and extreme factions caused such extreme violence that it brought the country to a standstill,” he said.

Mulook added that the Lahore High Court (LHC) has set aside the admission. However, since the judgment was in favor of the plaintiff, he didn’t challenge the admission so there's nothing in the case which would deter Bibi from being acquitted.

With the reactionary protests that followed in the aftermath of the verdict, Mulook said he was summoned by representatives from the United Nations and the European Union, in Islamabad, who feared for his safety and urged him to leave the country, despite his repeated requests to let him complete the proceedings of the case.

“I wanted to complete the process of release by my own and wanted to stay in the country but I was told if I didn’t leave, I would be killed,” he told.

"They kept me in a room for three days and then put me on a plane to send me out of the country,” he told. “I didn’t leave the country with my will.”

Mulook explained that it takes time to release an individual after he or she has been acquitted by the Supreme Court.

"The verdict needs to be sent to the Lahore High Court by post, which is required to send it using the same mode to the sessions judge in Nankana, the judge who has issued the death warrants,” Mulook said, adding that had he been in Pakistan, he "would have accelerated the process".

Criticizing the government for striking a deal with the protesting party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Mulook said: “The deal is unlawful. Legally, the government cannot sign such deals. However, it cannot be called surrender as governments across the world sign such deals with protestors.”

“There are no legal bindings on the government to fulfill the points of the deal written on white paper,” he added.

Discussing the outcome of the protests, Mulook made it clear that the manner in which the rioters were dispersed does not jeorpadise Bibi’s verdict at all. “It is not possible for the demands of the TLP to be acquiesced," he said, adding that the agreement “is all for saving the face of the clerics and their followers”.

In the past, he said, Pakistan has lost the lives of many civilians due to certain radical elements of society, so it was a quick decision on part of the government to disperse the crowds.

He concluded by saying that the government cannot place Bibi on the country's Exit Control List -- which was one of the points agreed upon in the five-part deal.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court said it found Bibi not guilty, citing a lack of evidence in her case. The decision, however, prompted countrywide protests by the TLP, a far-right Islamist group. The protests, which had also turned violent in some areas, compelled the government to strike a deal with the protestors.

Meanwhile, Ashiq Masih, Bibi's husband has appealed to the United States, United Kingdom and Canada to help them exit Pakistan.

According to the British media, Masih, in a video message appealed to US President Donald Trump for help.

Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

Updated 33 min 39 sec ago

Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

  • Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok
  • Proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected in Russia’s far-eastern port Vladivostok in the coming days, according to reports that have prompted excitement and concern among local residents.
After weeks of speculation, the Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April. It gave no details on a date or place, citing “security reasons.”
Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet.
The port lies only about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Russia’s short border with North Korea. This proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train.
The 35-year-old will be following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il, who met the newly elected Putin in Vladivostok in 2002.
The far eastern city rarely sees major international events, and some locals are happy for the city to be in the spotlight.
“Any visit is good, whether it’s an enemy or a friend,” said Danil, a student at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, billed by the media as a possible venue for the summit.
He welcomed the talks, saying “you can only make decisions through dialogue and communication.”
Nadezhda, a native of the city, said it will be a global event and “will be a boost for development in our city.”
Authorities this week were busy cleaning garbage near railways leading to the city, Russian media reported.
“The depressing view from the train window does not give a positive impression to guests of Vladivostok arriving by train,” an official from the local branch of Russian Railways told the Interfax news agency.
Nadezhda said she was “absolutely not afraid of (North Korea’s) nuclear program” and would like to see the country.
North Korea said this week it was testing nuclear weapons after a round of talks with the US ended in failure.
But Anna Marinina was less enthusiastic about the summit, and said that if Pyongyang did use its weapons, Vladivostok would be in the firing line.
“The people that panic the most about North Korea are safe on the other side of the ocean,” she said.
“If something were to happen, it would fall on us.”
Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.
The last meeting between Russian and North Korean heads of state was in 2011, when Kim’s father traveled by train to Siberia, where he took a boat ride on Lake Baikal and held tightly guarded talks with then president Dmitry Medvedev.
There is a chance however that fresh talks will not take place at all, as Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute.