Published: Wed, October 31, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Pakistan acquits Christian woman Bibi in iconic blasphemy case

Pakistan acquits Christian woman Bibi in iconic blasphemy case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Aasia Bibi - a Christian woman accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death - and set aside an earlier judgment passed by a lower court.

Bibi appeared to be in state of disbelief after hearing that Pakistan's Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had quashed her conviction almost eight years after she was first sentenced to death. Asia was accused of speaking disparagingly about the Prophet but her real crime was that she offered water to Muslim co-workers who believed Asia had made the water ceremonially unclean by drinking from the same cup.

Asia Bibi appeared to be in state of disbelief after hearing the decision from her lawyer. "She be released from jail forthwith, if not required in any other criminal case", historic verdict said.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization that lobbies on behalf of Christian minorities, said in a statement that "we are breathing a sigh of relief today".

Her husband Ashiq Masih said: "I am very happy".

Bibi was convicted and sentenced to hangby trial court in 2010.

She was convicted and sentenced to death, but in a landmark ruling Pakistan's top court has now acquitted Ms Bibi and order she be released. "Asia Bibi has finally been served justice".

The charges against her date back to a hot day in 2009 when she went to get water for her and her fellow farmworkers.

Asia Bibi, 47, had been on death row for eight years.

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Street protests were spreading by mid-afternoon, paralysing parts of Islamabad, Lahore and other cities.

Bibi's case has been high on the agenda of religious hardliners in Pakistan, many of whom are fiercely opposed to her release.

Chief Justice Saqib Nasir, who headed a special three-person bench set up for the appeal, cited the Koran in his ruling, writing "Tolerance is the basic principle of Islam" and noting the religion condemns injustice and oppression.

It is a case which has drawn worldwide attention to Pakistan's blasphemy laws and divided the nation.

The ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which makes punishing blasphemy its main campaign rallying cry and lionizes the bodyguard who killed Taseer, warned the court against any "concession or softness" for Bibi.

Islamists have demanded her execution.

Her case gained prominence after then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer pleaded for a retrial of her case and was subsequently shot dead by one of his guards, Mumtaz Qadri, in January, 2011.

In recent years, it has also been weaponised to smear dissenters and politicians.

"There are also contradictions regarding how the notice of the incident was taken and the complainant has said the decision to register an FIR against Bibi was taken amid a group of people", he had upheld.

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