Pakistan acquits Christian woman Bibi in iconic blasphemy case

31 October, 2018, 15:30 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Aasiya Bibi from blasphemy case

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam and ordered her freed, a ruling that set off protests by hardline Islamists but was welcomed by human rights advocates.

Justice Nisar while reading out the verdict said, "The appeal is allowed". Thanks to Jesus Christ that she is acquitted.

Islamabad was put on high alert with extra security forces on Tuesday night ahead of the verdict.

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. The court directed that Aasia Bibi be immediately released from jail if she is not wanted in any other cases.

Ms. Bibi's case also has been high on the agenda of religious hardliners in Pakistan, many of whom are fiercely opposed to her release. She had gone to fetch water for herself and fellow farm workers on a hot day the previous year, but two Muslim women had refused to drink from the same container and she was accused by a mob of blasphemy.

However, on 7 October, Ashiq Masih, Bibi's husband, said his wife was "spiritually strong" and "ready and willing to die for Christ", adding that she will "never convert to Islam".

Ms Bibi was originally accused of blasphemy after an argument with several other women in June 2009, whilst they were harvesting fruit in Sheikhupura, near Lahore.

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Earlier, security in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital and the city where the country's Supreme Court is located, was heightened in view of the verdict.

Bibi was not in court to hear the ruling, and AFP news agency quoted her as saying by phone: "I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now?"

Critics of Pakistan's blasphemy laws have long claimed that they are open to abuse, and often used by accusers simply to settle petty scores or oppress religious minorities.

Pakistan's 295-C blasphemy law is based on sharia (Islamic law) which mandates execution for those found guilty of committing blasphemy against Mohammed.

Bibi's supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute, and the Vatican has called for her release.

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. His assassin Mumtaz Qadri was executed in 2016 after the court found him guilty of murder.

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