Woman Stabbed 23 Times in Pakistan Wins Appeal Against Assailant’s Acquittal

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistan Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the acquittal of a man accused of stabbing a woman 23 times, nearly three years after the attack prompted a national debate on violence against women.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, leading a three-member panel, reinstated the conviction of Shah Hussain, accepting an appeal from Khadija Siddiqi, who survived the attack in Lahore in May 2016. Ms. Siddiqi said that Mr. Hussain, a former classmate, had attacked her after she rebuffed his romantic overtures. Mr. Hussain was rearrested in the courtroom on Wednesday.

Ms. Siddiqi, a 24-year-old law student, said on Wednesday that she felt vindicated by the court’s decision.

“Today is a victory for all women,” she said. “I think this case will serve a steppingstone for the future cases of women in Pakistan.”

Mr. Hussain was convicted of attempted murder in 2017 and sentenced to seven years in prison. But he appealed the decision, and last June another court acquitted him of all charges, citing a lack of evidence.

The acquittal prompted an outcry in Pakistan. Ms. Siddiqi’s story was widely shared on social media. Images of her wounded neck circulated on Twitter and Facebook, eliciting shock and sympathy. Rights activists and celebrities expressed support for Ms. Siddiqi as a campaign gained steam with the hashtag #JusticeForKhadija, and the Supreme Court decided to review the case just days after the acquittal.

Mr. Hussain belongs to a prominent family, and Ms. Siddiqi said he had used his connections to try to silence her.

Ms. Siddiqi’s lawyer, Hassaan Niazi, said his team was heartened by Wednesday’s verdict. “The judicial system has given hope to thousands in the country today,” he said.

Other rights campaigners also greeted the news with jubilation.

“Congratulations,” the rights activist Jibran Nasir said in a Twitter post directed at Ms. Siddiqi. “Your struggle & resilience is a source of inspiration for both women and men fighting against injustices in Pakistan.”

Activists and lawyers said the case was an example of the challenges that women faced while fighting for their rights in a conservative, patriarchic society. Hundreds of women are attacked or killed each year in Pakistan, and many cases of violence in rural areas are handled by village councils rather than the courts.

Ms. Siddiqi, who is studying law in England but returned to Pakistan for the Supreme Court verdict, said she hoped other women would follow in her footsteps.

“The court’s decision proves today that if you raise your voice then the truth would win,” she said. “If you misuse your authority and power, it will eventually come in front of you.”

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