Pakistan frees Christian woman facing death penalty for blasphemy

Pakistan frees Christian woman facing death penalty for blasphemy

The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy, ordering her immediate release from prison.

The ultra-Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which makes punishing blasphemy its main campaign rallying cry, earlier this month warned the court against any "concession or softness" for Ms. Bibi.

"The appeal is allowed".

We all woke up this morning to the news of the Supreme Court giving its verdict on the Asia Bibi case.

The 51-year-old Christian woman has been on the death row since November 2010 after she was convicted on charges of committing blasphemy during an argument with two Muslim women in Sheikhupura.

Reading out the verdict on Wednesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said: "The judgement of the high court and that of the trial court is reversed". At least 74 have been killed in violence related to blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally. Federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was also killed after calling for her release.

She has since been living in an undisclosed jail in Pakistan due to security reasons. Later, the guard, Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged for the assassination - a move that infuriated supporters of firebrand Muslim cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who launched a violent drive to block any possible changes in the law.

"We urge the government of Pakistan to provide necessary security to Asia and give her a safe passage to a place of peace and security. Her conviction is set aside", the verdict read.




Muslim women she was labouring with allegedly objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

During the appeal hearing on Oct 8, a three-member panel of Supreme Court justices appeared to question the case against her, with Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, considered Pakistan's top expert in criminal law, listing flaws in the proceedings.

Taseer later gunned down in broad daylight in Islamabad in 2011 by one of his own bodyguards who cited the governor's position on reforming the country's blasphemy laws as the motive.

The decision is a victory for human rights activists, who said the country's blasphemy law has been used to settle personal scores or to attack minority communities.

Lawyers, who did not want to speak on the record, noted that although the supreme court had at last taken a stand, the after-effect of the trial would serve to encourage lower courts to pass the weakest cases of blasphemy up to the apex court.

The group's emir for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said: "The objective of this protest is to raise awareness that if any such judgment is delivered in this sensitive case that grants concessions to the blasphemer Asia, then we will protest all over the country".

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

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