SC acquits Asia bibi in blasphemy case

SC acquits Asia bibi in blasphemy case

Asia Bibi was arrested in 2009 and convicted in 2010 under section 295-C of Pakistan's penal code that punishes blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad with the death penalty.

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. "We knew that she is innocent", said Ashiq Masih.

Bibi says she was falsely accused and is very respectful of Muslims and Mohammed. The law does not define blasphemy and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence.

"Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges".

Moderate Muslims have always ruled Pakistan but right-wing religious groups - despite having little presence in the country's parliament - have blocked moves to amend controversial legislation impacting non-Muslims or women.

Human rights activists have been working around the clock for the last several years to appeal the Pakistani court's death sentence.

Asia Bibi is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws.

Bibi's lawyer Saiful Mulook told AFP: "The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings".

Bibi's husband hailed Wednesday's verdict.

The following day, a much larger crowd dragged her to a village mullah, who told her had to either convert to Islam or die. "Asia Bibi has finally been served justice".

The matter was decided by a three-judge bench, which had reserved its verdict on October 8. Her Muslim colleagues accused her of contaminating the water because she was a Christian.

Her capital punishment was later challenged in the Lahore High Court in 201; but was upheld.

Bibi's supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute, and the Vatican has called for her release.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the the capital punishment for breaking them has drawn concern from worldwide 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. Mere calls to reform the law have provoked violence, most notably the assassination of Mr Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's most populous province Punjab, by his own bodyguard in broad daylight in Islamabad in 2011.

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.

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