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Pakistan’s top court on Tuesday upheld its acquittal of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, paving the way for Aasia Bibi to leave the country in a blow to radical Islamists who had demanded her execution.

Following the landmark decision, Bibi will finally be able to join her daughters, who earlier fled to Canada where they have been given asylum.

Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, who returned to Islamabad after fleeing the country amid death threats, called the decision a victory for Pakistan’s constitution and rule of law.

The three-judge Supreme Court panel had “insisted on very strict proofs of blasphemy” and found none, Malook said, expressing hope that Bibi’s acquittal will deter false blasphemy allegations in the future.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law is often used to settle scores or intimidate followers of minority religions, including Shiite Muslims. A charge of insulting Islam can bring the death penalty, and the mere accusation of blasphemy is sometimes enough to whip up vengeful mobs, even if courts acquit defendants. A provincial governor who defended Bibi was shot and killed, as was a government minority minister who dared question the blasphemy law.

From her secret location, Bibi watched the decision reported live on local television, according to a friend who spoke to her as it was being announced. Bibi’s first thoughts were for her daughters, the friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he fears reprisals from Islamic extremists.




The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday that a woman can sue Six Flags Great America for fingerprinting her child without telling her how the data would be used in violation of the state's biometric law, which privacy advocates consider to be the nation's strongest biometric data safeguards.

Stacy Rosenbach sued the amusement park north of Chicago in 2016, about two years after her son was electronically fingerprinted while buying a season pass. He was 14 at the time.

The lawsuit alleges the park violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires businesses and other private entities to obtain consent from people before collecting or disclosing their biometric identifiers and to securely store biometric data they do collect. It also permits people to sue businesses they believe violated the act.

In its ruling for Six Flags, an appellate court determined in 2017 that Rosenbach never demonstrated a direct injury or adverse effect, such as stolen identity or a monetary loss.

The state Supreme Court, in overturning that decision, rejected the argument that individuals should have the right to sue if no real damage occurred after they handed over their biometric information. The court ruled that a violation of the law is damage enough.

"This is no mere 'technicality,'" as the appellate court suggested, Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote in the opinion. "The injury is real and significant."

Biometric data, fingerprints, facial and iris scans, are increasingly used in tagging photos on social media and recording employee arrivals at the workplace.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch said in a statement the ruling will hurt employers and the state economy. The organization has said that protecting consumers' data is important, but that the way the law is written places a burden on employers.

"We fear that today's decision will open the floodgates for future litigation at the expense of Illinois' commercial health," Maisch said.

Great America spokeswoman Tess Claussen declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.




The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.” He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.”

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

The report by BuzzFeed News, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, says that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and that Cohen regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow project — even as Trump said he had no business dealings with Russia.



A lawyer for the family of an incapacitated Arizona woman who gave birth in a long-term care facility said she is not in a coma as previously reported.

The Arizona Republic reported Friday that attorney John Micheaels said the 29-year-old woman has “significant intellectual disabilities” and does not speak but has some ability to move, responds to sounds and is able to make facial gestures.

Phoenix police have said the woman was the victim of a sexual assault and have disclosed little other information.

A Jan. 8 statement by San Carlos Apache Tribe officials said the woman, a tribal member, gave birth while in a coma.

News media outlets have reported that the woman, who has not been publicly identified, was in a vegetative state at the facility where she spent many years.

“The important thing here is that contrary to what’s been reported, she is a person, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family,” Micheaels told the newspaper.



Connecticut officials say state Supreme Court rulings declined sharply in 2018, possibly a result of a major shakeup of the court over the past two years that included the appointments of a new chief justice and four new associate justices.

The Connecticut Law Tribune reports the seven-member high court decided 86 cases in 2018, a 17 percent decrease from the 104 cases decided in 2017.

Paul Hartan is the chief administrative officer for state appeals courts. He says the learning curve of new justices likely contributed to the decline in rulings.

New justices appointed to fill vacancies since March 2017 include Gregory D'Auria, Raheem Mullins, Maria Araujo Kahn and Steven Ecker. Justice Richard Robinson became chief justice last May, succeeded Chase Rogers, who retired.


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