Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pakistan: Where you have to wait an extremely long time in prison to have your “blasphemy” appeal heard

Last month there was some cautious optimism on the case of Asia Bibi after her death sentence was stayed and she was given leave to appeal the conviction that has seen her languishing in jail for six years. But it soon emerged (this article is dated July 27th and we must have missed it previously) that her appeal might itself not be heard for another six years, due to the backlog of cases:

An SC [Supreme Court] official said the appeals that were granted leave in 2009 were being taken up by the court. “The petitions granted leave now might be taken up in another six years,” he told The Express Tribune.
Aftab Ahmed Bajwa, a criminal justice expert, too, said the SC’s Lahore Registry was currently taking up the appeals that were granted leave in 2007 and 2008. He said it appeared that Aasia’s appeal would not be fixed for hearing for up to six years. “She will have to wait for at least four years even if she is granted an ‘out of turn’ hearing by the court.”
And she’s not the only “blasphemy” convict awaiting an appeal hearing.
The High Court in Lahore (LHC) was yesterday set to hear the appeal on the case of one Waleeha Irfat, a 24-year-old woman accused of “blasphemy”, convicted more than three years ago, and in jail ever since. Previous hearings were re-scheduled because reportedly no lawyer would take her case. The Express Tribune reports:
On August 12, Justice Shaid Bilal Hassan had put off the hearing on her plea until August 20.
Waleeha Irfat was jailed on March 3, 2012, after an FIR was registered against her at the Factory Area police station under Section 295-B (blasphemy) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
On August 29, 2013, a seven-member medical board headed by the Health Services director general had said, “She has been found to be suffering from mood disorder (impulsive personality traits). The board is of the opinion that she needs drug treatment and psychotherapy.” The board had been formed on the court’s directive.
We cannot find word yet on the outcome of Waleeha Irfat hearing yesterday, assuming it took place.
In previous reports, advocates for the complainant blamed the delays on the jailed woman for changing lawyers, noting that no one would take her case because of “the nature of the accusations”.

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