SC acquits Asia bibi in blasphemy case

SC acquits Asia bibi in blasphemy case

SC acquits Asia bibi in blasphemy case

ISLAMABAD-Pakistan's top court on October 31, acquitted a Christian woman who was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in 2010, a landmark ruling that sparked protests by hard-line Islamists and raised fears of violence.

Aasia Bibi was accused of insulting Prophet Mohammad, an allegation that can incite violence in conservative Pakistan.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five from Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to hang after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammed during an argument the year before with Muslim colleagues. The judgement of the high court as well as trial court is reversed.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar read the ruling from the bench in Islamabad, saying the prosecution "categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt", the BBC reports. The two Muslim women who pressed charges against Bibi denied they quarrelled with her, saying her outbursts against Islam were unprovoked.

In February, Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih and one of her daughters met with Pope Francis to beg for his help.

Asia Bibi was ordered released eight years after she was sentenced to death in 2010 on blasphemy charges - a landmark ruling that sparked widespread protests around Pakistan by hard-line Islamists and even led to the murder of a local governor.

Later, two women refused to drink from the container she had touched because she was not Muslim.

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Earlier this month, the leader of the Islamic party Tehreek-i-Labbaik threatened to "paralyse the country within hours" if the court set Ms Bibi free - and the civilian government has been unwilling to take them on over any change to the law.

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.

"It is great news for Pakistan and rest of the world", Bibi's lawyer Saiful Mulook told Reuters.

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. Ms Bibi said from prison after the ruling.

If her death sentence had been carried out, Bibi would have been the first person executed by the state under the blasphemy laws.

"I have been to visit my mother in jail, and she asks the people of Britain to remember her in their prayers", Eisham added.

Bibi's legal team have claimed the row started when she got into a dispute with her neighbours.

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