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Pakistan 20 November 2002

Court overturns blasphemy conviction, frees journalist after three years in prison

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has confirmed that editorialist Ayub Khoso was released from Hyderabad prison (in the southern province of Sindh) on 24 October as a result of a decision by the Hyderabad high court quashing his conviction for blasphemy. He had been in prison since December 1999. The court also overturned the conviction of Zahoor Ansari, the editor of Alakh, a daily newspaper to which Khoso contributed editorials.

Khoso’s lawyer told Reporters Without Borders member Ahmed Raza, who is correspondent for the Daily Times, that the high court in Hyderabad issued its ruling on 22 October. Khoso was released on bail and has returned to his village in the Mirpurkhas area. The complaint against him still stands, and he is scheduled to appear in court on 25 November for the first hearing in a new trial.

In 1999, the Mirpurkhas anti-terrorist court convicted Khoso of blasphemy in absentia and sentenced him to 17 years in prison for publishing an excerpt from a book entitled "Hum Jins Parasti Ki Tehreek" (Movement for Homosexuality), which maintains that homosexuality emerged at the time of the prophets Adam, Habeal and Qabeel. The Mirpurkhas court’s judge deemed this to be an "insult" to the Prophet.

The complaint was filed by Ahmed Mian Barkati, a fundamentalist leader in the Mirpurkhas area known for filing lawsuits in connection with publications he considers to be an incitement to "religious hate."

Khoso was a teacher in a private school in his village, and used to publish opinion pieces regularly in newspapers in the region, especially Ibrat, Alakh, Tameer-e-Sind, Sawural and Sham. He was fired from his teaching post following his conviction.

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