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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June 2005, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Smiles replace anxiety for Mukhtar Mai
By Mubashir Zaidi
BBC News, Islamabad

Mukhtar Mai and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan (L)
Lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan (l) championed the "poor, illiterate" Ms Mai
Mukhtar Mai looked anxious when she came to the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Monday, accompanied by her lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan and friend Naseem Akhtar.

She had been through a traumatic time, embroiled in one of the most controversial cases in Pakistan's legal history.

She had spent three months waiting for the hearing, which would rule on whether five men acquitted by a lower court of raping her would be released.

She sat in the front row of the court room, next to the section that has come to be known as journalists' corner.

She had no idea what her lawyer or Pakistan's attorney general were arguing in articulate English, since she is unable to speak the language.

She talked to her friend most of the time.

'Pure conjecture'

Shortly before the trial began on Monday, she appeared confident and at ease, telling reporters the passport the government had confiscated had been returned.

A sole statement of the accused in gang rape cases is sufficient to ensure a conviction
Makhdoom Ali Khan,
attorney general

For most of the first day, she remained surrounded by dozens of human rights activists who have been supportive throughout.

As proceedings came to a close on Monday, Ms Mai had no idea that Tuesday would bring a speedy decision. "I just want justice to be done," she said.

On Tuesday, as Attorney General Makhdoom Ali Khan continued his arguments, Ms Mai took a nap.

Mr Khan blasted the Lahore High Court's acquittals, saying they were based on pure conjecture.

Supreme Court in Islamabad
The Supreme Court hearing was the latest round in an epic legal battle

"A sole statement of the accused in gang rape cases is sufficient to ensure a conviction," he told the court.

Then it was the turn of Ms Mai's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, to take the podium.

"This is a battle of a poor and illiterate lady who has decided to fight a legal battle against her rapists to the farthest level and she has not succumbed to the pressures she has faced in her course," he said.

He urged the court to review the village council system - Ms Mai was raped allegedly on the direction of such a council, or panchayat.

"In this case the role of the rapists and the panchayat are the same. It is all about dastardly rule," he said.

The court listened to the arguments and ordered her rapists be rearrested pending a new trial.

As the short order was read out, Ms Mai began to smile - the smile widening as the order began to register.

She stood, hugging her friend Naseem and the activists around her.

"I am happy and satisfied. I hope I will get justice from this court," she told reporters.

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