Pakistan - Asia Bibi Freed From Blasphemy Charges

 

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Asia Bibi will finally be able to join her daughters who earlier fled to Canada where they have been given asylum. Pakistan's top court on Tuesday upheld its acquittal of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, clearing the last legal hurdle and freeing Asia Bibi to leave the country in a move that dealt a blow to radical Islamists who had demanded her execution.

The three-judge Supreme Court panel had "insisted on very strict proofs of blasphemy" and found none, Bibi's lawyer, Saiful Malook, said. He returned to Islamabad after fleeing the country amid death threats.

Last year, Pakistan’s top court overturned the death sentence of Asia Bibi who was convicted under the country’s blasphemy laws. The decision resulted in huge protests and demonstrators were out in the streets of Lahore demanding judges uphold the death penalty for Asia Bibi. Chanting "Hang infidel Asia," activists from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party also rallied in other cities, threatening wider protests if she is freed.

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Associated Press reports that Pakistan's Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa who led the panel of judges dismissed the petition filed by radical religious leaders. The extremists had petitioned the court to overturn its acquittal and send her back to prison for execution. He said in court that Bibi's accusers were guilty of perjury and if the case had not been so sensitive, they should have been jailed for life.

"The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow," Khosa said.

"I am really grateful to everybody, now after nine years it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters," a friend quoted Bibi as saying.

Bibi's ordeal began on a hot day in 2009 when she brought water to fellow farmhands who refused to drink from the same container as a Christian woman. Two of her fellow farmworkers argued with Bibi and later accused her of insulting Islam's prophet. Bibi always insisted that she was innocent.

Critics complain that Pakistan's blasphemy law "is overwhelmingly being used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas," but calls for change in the blasphemy laws have been strongly resisted by Islamic parties - most prominently the Barelvi school of Islam. The case of this woman shows how ridiculous blasphemy laws can be. She spent nine years in prison because someone accused her of insulting prophet Muhhamad.

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