Asia Bibi's death sentence for blasphemy overturned in Pakistan

Asia Bibi's death sentence for blasphemy overturned in Pakistan

Asia Bibi's death sentence for blasphemy overturned in Pakistan

On Wednesday, the country's Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, in an iconic blasphemy case, saying there were "glaring and stark" contradictions in the case against her.

Ms Bibi's acquittal has posed a challenged for Pakistan's new prime minister, Imran Khan, who came to power this summer partly by pursuing an Islamist agenda.

Party spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said: "The patron in chief of TLP, Muhammad Afzal Qadri, has issued the edict that says the chief justice and all those who ordered the release of Asia deserve death".

A neighbor of hers who had been feuding with Bibi's family about supposed property damage told her it was unclean for a Christian to drink water from the same utensil from which Muslims drink.

Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in deeply conservative Muslim Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammed can provoke death at the hands of vigilantes.

Since Wednesday's verdict, the TLP has been holding sit-ins in cities across the country with supporters blocking major traffic thoroughfares, causing gridlock and school closures in key hubs like Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi.

Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, expressed his joy at his wife's exoneration and release.

The justices concluded that no strong evidence was presented to the court about Bibi's crime.

Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers in parliament called on Thursday for reforming the judicial system and Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law - so that innocents like Bibi wouldn't spent years languishing in jail.

After eight years of battling it out in the courts, a Christian woman in Pakistan has been acquitted of charges of blasphemy.

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The Colosseum in Rome, where early Christians were often put to death, was lit up in red shortly afterwards in solidarity with persecuted Christians like Bibi. Several Western countries offered her asylum. Bibi refused to do so, after which a mob accused her of blasphemy.

According to officials, Bibi might be flown out of Pakistan due to threat to her life.

Asia Bibi, who has four children, was the first woman to be sentenced to death under the laws.

Chief Justice Saqib Nasir said at the appeal: "The conviction is set aside".

Demonstrations are also being held in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan - and clashes with police have been reported.

The following day, a much larger crowd dragged her to a village mullah, who told her had to either convert to Islam or die. And there are reports of mobs in the streets burning tires over the court's decision to release her. Her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore High Court in 2014. "They are using language that enemies use. only for their self serving politics", he said. The assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, has been celebrated as a martyr by hard-liners since he was hanged for the killing, with millions visiting a shrine set up for him near Islamabad.

TLP, founded in 2015, blockaded the capital Islamabad for several weeks a year ago calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. Both men supported Bibi and had called for an end to Pakistan's Blasphemy Law.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan made a special address on the ruling as television channels showed the situation spiralling out of control in various cities.

Bibi did not appear in the courtroom and her whereabouts were a closely held secret for fear of attacks on her and her family.

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