Pakistan overturns Christian woman Asia Bibi's blasphemy verdict, death sentence

Charlene Craig
October 31, 2018

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

Bibi's family and her lawyer say she never insulted the Prophet.

The trial stems from an argument Asia Bibi, whose full name is Asia Noreen, had with a group of women in June 2009. The case has also infuriated Christians around the world, Reuters reports.

The women went to a local cleric and accused Ms Bibi of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, a charge punishable by death under colonial-era legislation. We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice.

To this, Justice Khosa had remarked, "From your statements we have gathered that the Imam himself did not witness the incident as it happened and no blasphemous words were said in his presence".

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan is set to announce much awaited judgment in Aasia Bibi case on Wednesday.

She was then told off by a Muslim neighbor, who turned to other Muslim women in the area to tell them the Christian devotee had dirtied the water by drinking from their cup. The delay followed threats by blasphemy campaigners to hold large protests and kill the judges if they did not uphold the death sentence.

Party spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said: "The patron in chief of TLP, Muhammad Afzal Qadri, has issued the edict that says the chief justice and all those who ordered the release of Asia deserve death".

Ms Asia Bibi's case drew the attention of worldwide rights groups and swiftly became the most high-profile in the country.

Supporters of Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP), which was founded to support blasphemy laws, immediately condemned the decision to overturn Ms Bibi's conviction and blocked roads in major cities, pelting police with stones in the eastern city of Lahore.

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Rights groups say the blasphemy law is exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

The sources said security personnel had been asked to guard the Red Zone as it houses sensitive installations, including the Supreme Court.

Her daughter, Eisham Ashiq, had previously told the AFP news agency that if she were released: "I will hug her and will cry meeting her and will thank God that he has got her released". In addition to citing the Quran, the judges also referenced Shakespeare's King Lear, saying Bibi was "more sinned against than sinning".

The governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered in 2011 after he spoke in defence of Bibi and called for reform of blasphemy laws. "For the past eight years, Asia Bibi's life languished in limbo", said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director for Amnesty International.

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