Pakistan frees Christian woman facing death penalty for blasphemy

02 November, 2018, 19:25 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Asia Bibi

Radical Islamist groups protested on Wednesday in a number of Pakistan cities against the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the death sentence of Christian woman Asia Bibi, who had been convicted in 2010 of blasphemy.

Asia Bibi, a Christian farm laborer, angered her Muslim co-workers when she took a drink of water from a cup she got for them almost a decade ago.

However, a row broke out between Ms Bibi and the co-workers who insisted they could not touch the cup after she had drunk from it as the Christian faith is unclean.

A court convicted Bibi and sentenced her to death in 2010.

Bibi was condemned under an article added to the Pakistan Penal Code following independence stating: 'Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine'.

If Salman Taseer were around today, he would be happy with this week's decision acquitting Asia Bibi, but anxious that she is still far from safe like others members of her community.

"At any cost, we do not accept Supreme Court's one-sided verdict to release Asia", stated Islamic protest leader Qazi Ahsan Ahmed.

Rt Rev Susan Brown said: 'We urge the authorities in Pakistan to do all in their power to ensure the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family, her lawyers and the judges.

The Christian community has been targeted by numerous attacks in recent years, leaving many feeling vulnerable to a climate of intolerance.

In a statement before Wednesday's ruling the party said: "If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be awful consequences".

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Thousands of far-right religious demonstrators continue to block major roads across Pakistan in protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case.

"Whoever gets a chance wherever should kill blasphemer Asia Bibi", said their statement emailed to the media.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisarm, who read out the ruling, said Asia Bibi could walk free from jail in Sheikupura, near Lahore, immediately if not wanted in connection with any other case.

Long queues of traffic were witnessed in Lahore, Islamabad and other cities due to blockade of several major roads.

A lawyer representing a local cleric who had raised the initial blasphemy charges against Ms Bibi petitioned the supreme court on Thursday to reverse its acquittal. Hardliners treated Taseer's killer, Mumtaz Qadri, as a hero. Islamists gathered in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, in the northwestern city of Peshawar and elsewhere.

Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. The two Muslim women who pressed charges denied they quarrelled with her, saying her outbursts against Islam were unprovoked.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan addressed the nation earlier about the Court's verdict on Aasia Bibi's case.

She was tried and initially sentenced to death and has remained on death row until this decision from the Supreme Court. "They are using language that enemies use. only for their self serving politics", he said. Masih would not disclose the country of her destination but both France and Spain have offered asylum.

Mere calls to reform the law have provoked violence, most notably the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, by his own bodyguard in broad daylight in Islamabad in 2011.

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