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In this photograph taken on March 29, 2016, Pakistani journalists watch a video showing Indian national, Kulbhushan Yadav, arrested on suspicion of spying, during a press conference in Islamabad. (Photo by AFP)
The United Nations' top court has ordered Pakistan to stay the execution of an Indian man convicted of involvement in espionage and sabotage activities.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague ruled in a binding decision on Thursday that Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav must not be executed until Pakistan has time to hear the case brought by New Delhi.
"Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Mr Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in these proceedings," said the court's president Ronny Abraham.
He said India has the right to seek consular access for Jadhav, ordering Pakistan to inform the tribunal that it has implemented the decision.
Outlining the reasons for its decision, Abraham said Pakistan had given no assurances Jadhav would not be executed before the court delivered its final decision.
Indian lawyer Deepak Mittal ealier told the tribunal that Jadhav was "an innocent Indian national" who had been held incommunicado for more than a year on "concocted charges".
Pakistani representatives, however, told the court Jadhav had confessed to having been sent by India "to wage terror on the innocent civilians and infrastructure of Pakistan".
Judicial experts say the hearings and final decision could take more many months if not years.
The unanimous decision by ICJ is considered a victory for New Delhi over its bitter rival.
The last time India and Pakistan took a dispute to the court was in 1999 when Islamabad protested against the downing of a Pakistani navy plane that killed 16 people. In that case, the tribunal decided it was not competent to rule in the dispute and closed the case.
The ICJ was set up in 1945 to rule on disputes between nations in accordance with international law.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) holds a public hearing on March 6, 2017 in The Hague. (Photo by AFP)
Jadhav was arrested in March 2016 in the southwestern province of Balochistan on charges of being an Indian spy and fueling unrest across the troubled province. Pakistani officials claim he has confessed to being a spy for the Indian intelligence. 
India and Pakistan routinely accuse each other of sending spies into their countries, and it is not uncommon for either nation to expel diplomats accused of espionage. However, death sentences have rarely been issued in such cases.
Jadhav was convicted last month by a Pakistani military court and sentenced to death.
New Delhi has warned Islamabad that any move to execute the Indian national would be "premeditated murder".
Indian media have described Jadhav as a former naval officer, calling the proceedings against him "farcical". 
The developments come amid intensified cross-frontier shelling between the two sides along the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed region of Kashmir, leading to deaths of civilians and soldiers.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir since their independence from Britain in 1947. Pakistan has long accused India of fueling an ongoing insurgency in its restive Balochistan Province.

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