Supreme Court acquits Asia Bibi, orders immediate release

Pak Supreme Court To Rule On Christian Woman Facing Death Over Blasphemy

Pak Supreme Court To Rule On Christian Woman Facing Death Over Blasphemy

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday announced the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic woman who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy in a case that has divided the South Asian country and sparked global outrage.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, a three-judge bench of the apex court gave this verdict on an appeal filed by the woman challenging her capital punishment.

"This appeal is, therefore, allowed, the conviction and sentence of the appellant recorded and upheld by the courts below are set aside and she is acquitted of the charge by extending the benefit of doubt to her", he stated.

She has been offered asylum by several countries and was expected to leave the country if acquitted. She was convicted and sentenced to death.

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

Asia Bibi, a mother of four, has been living on death row since 2010 when she became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws.

In Wednesday's verdict, the court ordered authorities to free Asia Bibi.

Her lawyers said the prosecution case was full of contradictions.

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The allegations against Bibi date back to 2009, when she was working in a field and was asked to fetch water.

On October 8, the bench had reserved its verdict on Aasia's final legal appeal against execution.

There was a heavy police presence at the Supreme Court in Islamabad as many feared outbreaks of violence.

In 2010, Punjab's then-governor Salmaan Taseer and then-federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti were both killed for championing Bibi's cause.

On Twitter, a video circulated that showed young men on bikes riding through a dark road and shouting slogans, calling for the death of Asia Bibi. The women had said they could no longer use a cup from which Bibi had had water, because of her religion. The assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, has been celebrated as a martyr by hardliners since he was hanged for the killing, with millions visiting a shrine set up for him near Islamabad.

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". "For the past eight years, Asia Bibi's life languished in limbo", said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director for Amnesty International.

His announcement is a victory for human rights activists, who say religious minorities in Pakistan are routinely targeted and baseless allegations of blasphemy levied against them to settle personal vendettas.

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