Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Aasiya Bibi (Asia Bibi) from blasphemy case

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

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Bibi was arrested in 2009 after a quarrel with Muslim women. When they demanded she convert to Islam, she refused, prompting a mob to later allege that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed.

In 2016, her family gave a statement from Bibi to an Italian newspaper, La Stampa, saying, "I forgive my persecutors, those who have falsely accused me, and I await their forgiveness.I do not hate those who did me wrong". In Wednesday's verdict, the court ordered authorities to free Asia Bibi.

She has since been living in an undisclosed jail in Pakistan due to security reasons. In, 2014, Lahore High Court (LHC) had upheld the verdict.

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.

The Supreme Court has banned local media from reporting on the case until the judgement is announced. But in Pakistan, it has rallied radical Islamists and militant groups who have embraced Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, using it to cultivate support and attack those who try to break their power.

Pakistani police officers stand guard outside the supreme court in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 31, 2018. 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.

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?"

Her original conviction stemmed from an argument with her Muslim women coworkers on a farm over whether Bibi, as a Christian, was pure enough to share their water.

"We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice". The incident led to allegations that she had blasphemed the Prophet Muhammad.

Supporters of a Pakistani religious group chant slogans while blocking the main road at a protest after a court decision, in Karachi, Pakistan.

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

In February, Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, and one of her daughters met Pope Francis shortly before Rome's ancient Coliseum was lit in red one evening in solidarity with persecuted Christians, and Bibi in particular.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the the capital punishment for breaking them has drawn concern from global rights organizations, "not least because they are sometimes misused to settle feuds, grab land, or persecute religious minorities by making false allegations", NPR's Phillip Reeves has reported.

"This is an incredibly unsafe time, not only for Asia Bibi and the justices deciding her case, but the entire Christian community", the ACLJ reported.

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