Pakistan’s Islamist party says judges who acquitted Christian woman ‘deserve death’

Hannah Rogers
October 31, 2018

Pakistan's supreme court has struck down the death sentence for blasphemy handed down to Christian woman Asia Bibi, in a long-delayed, landmark decision that has seen the judiciary praised for its bravery in the face of threats of violence and protest from the country's Islamist groups.

"....this appeal is allowed".

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar read out the ruling saying she was free to go, if not wanted in connection with any other case.

Further, Justice Khosa "because of some important legal and factual issues involved in the case" chose to record his separate concurring opinion which stated that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against Asia Bibi beyond a reasonable doubt.

Earlier, on October 8, the top court had reserved its judgment on the appeal of the Christian mother of four, who in 2010 became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy law.

Insulting Islams prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions that they are nearly impossible to defend against.

The Pakistani Supreme Court today set aside that conviction.

To this, Justice Khosa had remarked, "From your statements we have gathered that the Imam himself did not witness the incident as it happened and no blasphemous words were said in his presence".

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Ms Bibi was originally accused of blasphemy after an argument with several other women in June 2009, whilst they were harvesting fruit in Sheikhupura, near Lahore. Her Muslim colleagues accused her of contaminating the water because she was a Christian.

"Pakistan's Supreme Court must be appreciated that it upheld the law of the land and didn't succumb to any pressure".

To this, Justice Nisar had asked Bibi's lawyer, "Are these things on record?"

In 2011, Salman Taseer, who was then the governor of Punjab province, was assassinated by a bodyguard in Islamabad, days after he expressed support for Bibi.

Bibi says she was falsely accused and is very respectful of Muslims and Mohammed.

The case has disgusted millions around the world and caused huge division in the majority Muslim country. 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.

However, on 7 October, Ashiq Masih, Bibi's husband, said his wife was "spiritually strong" and "ready and willing to die for Christ", adding that she will "never convert to Islam". Bibi's case was closely followed internationally amid concern for Pakistan's religious minorities, who have frequently come under attack by extremists in recent years.

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