Pakistan court frees Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy
Pakistan court frees Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy
Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Aasiya Bibi from blasphemy case
31 October, 2018, 12:13
In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has acquitted Asia Noreen Bibi - a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death over blasphemy charges.
A trial court sentenced Bibi to death on complaints that she had insulted Islam and the prophet Muhammad.
On the day the court reserved its judgment, Saiful Malook, counsel for Aasia Bibi, had argued that the appellant had not committed blasphemy and was being "persecuted due to her religious beliefs".
Ms Asia Bibi's case drew the attention of global rights groups and swiftly became the most high-profile in the country. "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". She had moved the Supreme Court against her conviction.
"I am very happy".
Human rights activists have been working around the clock for the last several years to appeal the Pakistani court's death sentence.
She was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.
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.
Mother-of-four Asia Bibi has been on death row since 2010 when she fell foul of the country's extremist blasphemy laws.
Bibi was convicted and sentenced to hangby trial court in 2010.
Mere calls to reform the law have provoked violence, most notably the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's most populous province Punjab, by his own bodyguard in broad daylight in Islamabad in 2011.
Earlier this month, the leader of the Islamic party Tehreek-i-Labbaik threatened to "paralyse the country within hours" if the court set Ms Bibi free - and the civilian government has been unwilling to take them on over any change to the law.
Bibi's legal team celebrated the court's decision amid beefed-up security in Islamabad after religious hardliners had vowed to protest any acquittal of the case. His assassin Mumtaz Qadri was executed in 2016 after the court found him guilty of murder.
Critics of the blasphemy law have said it is used to settle personal scores or to attack minority communities.
She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.
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