Asia Bibi: Blasphemy Death Sentence Overturned

Photo Credit: Flickr

The Asia Bibi blasphemy case involves Pakistani Christian woman Aasiya Noreen, who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. Various petitions for her release were created by organizations aiding persecuted Christians such as Voice of the Martyrs, including one that received over 400,000 signatures. These organizations protested Noreen’s imprisonment until finally Pope Benedict XVI, and later Pope Francis, called for the charges to be dismissed.

A christian woman Asia Bibi, mother of five and a 47-year-old farm laborer angered fellow Muslim farm workers by taking a sip of water from a cup she had fetched for them on a hot day. When they demanded she convert to Islam, she refused, prompting a mob to later allege that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed.

According to the Guardian, Pakistan’s supreme court struck down the death sentence handed down to the christian woman for blasphemy.  The landmark decision was long-delayed, but it will free her after nine years on death row — and has also ignited countrywide protests from Islamist groups. Bibi was released on Wednesday morning in Islamabad. By the afternoon thousands of club-wielding demonstrators had blocked highways, burned tyres and pelted police with stones in major cities, including Islamabad and Karachi.

After the verdict’s release, the prime minister Imran Khan issued a strong defense of the decision in a televised address, terming it “according to the constitution, and Pakistan’s constitution is according to the teachings of Islam.”

Pakistan authorities were trying to get Asia Bibi out of the country as quickly as possible because her life was in danger. Bibi's acquittal prompted violent demonstrations by the Islamist movement Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). After that, in a document signed by the TLP’s religious affairs minister and the second-in-command, Pir Afzal Qadri, the government promised not to oppose a court petition to reverse Bibi’s release. Pakistan’s government has been accused of signing the “death warrant” of Asia Bibi after it said it would begin the process of preventing her leaving the country.

Bibi is, unfortunately, now trapped in a prison that has been converted into a safe house, a source with direct knowledge of the facility told CNN on Monday. Extra surveillance cameras have been installed at the converted jail in recent days and any individuals entering or leaving the location are searched, including those who are charged with preparing Bibi's food, according to the police source.

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