Asia Bibi Acquitted of Blasphemy Charges, Free to Leave Pakistan
Asia Bibi, a Christian women accused of blasphemy, has been acquitted by a top Pakistani court.
The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to her acquittal and overturned her conviction and death sentence.
Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after accusations of insulting Prophet Mohammad came into light. In June 2009, she had an argument with her neighbouring women over a bucket of water. The woman refused to use the cup, which was touched by Bibi, as they believed her faith had made it unclean.
The women insisted that Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and in response, she insulted Prophet Muhammad by her offensive comments. Her accusers said she confessed to blasphemy, while she was being beaten up at her home. Following a police investigation, Bibi was arrested.
Bibi, who is a labourer from Pakistan’s central Punjab province, has waited eight years to leave Pakistan due to a pending appeal. The Supreme Court said there was unreliable evidence and so, acquitted her.
“Based on merit, this petition is dismissed,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in court on Tuesday.
She is being held in a protective custody in Islamabad. The authorities have refused to disclose her whereabouts amidst fears of violent Islamist demonstrations.
After the ruling was announced, Bibi’s lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook said, “I think at this time she is here (in Pakistan) – but by tonight, I don’t know.”
Extremists “said they would kill her despite the judgment of the Supreme Court,” he said. “Therefore, I think she should leave the country.”
“She should now be free to reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice,” Amnesty International said.
Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan group, which led violent anti-blasphemy campaigns and demanded execution of Asia Bibi last year, asked its members to be ready.
“If she goes abroad, don’t Muslims live there?” said Hafiz Ehtisham Ahmed, an Islamist activist linked to the extremist Red Mosque in Islamabad.
“If she goes out of Pakistan… anybody can kill her there.”
Chief Justice Khosa expressed regret and frustration at the extremist group’s reaction on the case.
“Is this the face of Islam that we want to show to the world?” he asked in the courtroom.
He was equally agitated with the protestors. “You block the entire country because a decision is not in your favor?” he said to the court.
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