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.

Philippine Senators oppose president’s push to lower criminal age to 9

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of housewives and mothers, that participate in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the provincial government and Duterte's war on drugs at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga province, Philippines December 22, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 January 2019

Philippine Senators oppose president’s push to lower criminal age to 9

  • International organizations have expressed alarm, including UNICEF and Save the Children, while domestic activists said children should be protected from criminals

MANILA: Senators in the Philippines on Tuesday joined activists and child protection groups in condemning a lower house move to reduce the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine, calling it extreme and unjust.
The proposal has President Rodrigo Duterte’s support and is being revived by his Congressional allies, having been filed on his inauguration day in 2016 along with a bid to re-introduce the death penalty — moves touting his crime-busting credentials.
The plan was approved on Monday by the lower house’s justice committee, but still needs several readings before a house vote. It would then require counterpart legislation and approval of the Senate, members of which appear less supportive.
“It is anti-family, anti-poor and simply unjust. Moreover, it will promote a heartless and ruthless society that has no regard for its own people,” said Antonio Trillanes, one of Duterte’s biggest critics.
Risa Hontiveros said the idea went against Philippines’ international commitments and a global trend of raising, not lowering, the criminal age.
“Why do we want to slide back to the minimum, or even below the minimum? Is this a race to the bottom?” she told a Senate hearing.
Duterte campaigned aggressively on eliminating crime, drugs and corruption and has said he has since realized they were all on a greater scale than he had imagined.
Despite a war on drugs that has killed thousands of people and graft-related scandals and resignations of his own appointees, Duterte has not lost his lustre among Filipinos, who polls show back his morality-centered approach to law and order.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said nine was too young, but he supported lowering the age “to a certain level.” Joel Villanueva said the bill needed a rethink, to target parents more.
“Children in general have different levels of maturity and discernment,” he added.
International organizations have expressed alarm, including UNICEF and Save the Children, while domestic activists said children should be protected from criminals, not held liable for things they were forced to do.
Agnes Callamard, a United Nations special rapporteur who has frequently locked horns with Duterte, called it a “dangerous and potentially deadly proposal. Just shameful.”
Justice committee chairman Salvador Leachon, however, said the bill was misunderstood, and was rehabilitation-centered, and “pro-children,” with non-compliant parents the ones who would go to jail.
“The point here is there is no punishment,” he told news channel ANC. “It’s rehabilitation, reformative, taking care of the family.”