Published: Wed, October 31, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

SC sets aside death penalty of Asia Bibi, orders her release

SC sets aside death penalty of Asia Bibi, orders her release

A three-judge special bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel heard Bibi's 2014 appeal against her conviction and death sentence under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

She has been offered asylum by several countries and was expected to leave the country if acquitted. The Lahore High Court had upheld that conviction and punishment.

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

Asia Bibi's case drew the attention of worldwide rights groups and swiftly became the most high-profile in the country.

Freedom for Bibi in Pakistan, where university students have been lynched and Christians burnt in ovens over blasphemy claims, means a life under threat by hardliners, who regularly hold demonstrations calling for her execution.

Pakistan's top court has acquitted a Christian woman who has been on death row since 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammed.

The women went to a local cleric and accused Bibi of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, a charge punishable by death under colonial-era legislation.

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Bibi was arrested in 2009 after a quarrel with Muslim women.

It is pertinent to note that while reserving the verdict, the chief justice, in a short order, had said that no media would print or disseminate comments over the case till pronouncement of the final verdict. They demanded she convert, she refused.

Pakistani police officers stand guard outside the supreme court in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. A few days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy. The law does not define blasphemy and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence.

According to the Supplementary Cause List, the highest court in the land is set to announce its verdict Wednesday morning Pakistani time. Both men supported Bibi and had called for an end to Pakistan's Blasphemy Law.

Her daughter, Eisham Ashiq, had previously told the AFP news agency that if she were released: "I will hug her and will cry meeting her and will thank God that he has got her released".

Ms Bibi admitted arguing with the women, but always maintained she said nothing blasphemous and was innocent of the charges. The case has also infuriated Christians around the world, Reuters reports. 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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