Pakistan acquits Christian woman facing death for blasphemy

Pakistan acquits Christian woman facing death for blasphemy

The leader of the Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party also called for the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government over the case of Asia Bibi, who was acquitted by a Supreme Court panel earlier in the day. "I just don't know what to say, I am very happy, I can't believe it".

The women said her faith had made a cup she used unclean and she should convert to Islam.

Pakistan's 295-C blasphemy law is based on sharia (Islamic law) which mandates execution for those found guilty of committing blasphemy against Mohammed.

She won her appeal against the conviction and subsequent death sentence on Wednesday.

After five days of this argument between the women, a Muslim cleric lodged a complaint against Asia after a mob of Muslims beat her and forced her to confess.

They alleged Ms Bibi's response included three offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad. The delay followed threats by blasphemy campaigners to hold large protests and kill the judges if they did not uphold the death sentence.

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

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar overturned the conviction by the Lahore High Court that had sentenced Asia Bibi, a mother of four, to death in 2010, becoming the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws.

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Extra forces have been deployed in sensitive areas, such as diplomatic enclaves, and hundreds of police and para-military personnel are guarding the Supreme Court.

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".

Before the verdict, Bibi's lawyer told AP: "I have lost my health".

The media has been prevented from discussing the case since the verdict was reserved on 8 October.

Ms. Bibi has always denied blaspheming. The hard-line religious right has repeatedly called for her to be hanged.

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.

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. His assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, was executed in 2016 and has been feted as a hero by hardliners, with a shrine to him built by Islamists just outside the capital.

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