Pakistan acquits Asia Bibi, sparking protests
The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a landmark ruling on Wednesday overturned the death sentence of a Catholic woman charged with blasphemy in 2010. Hard-line Islamists in the country responded by staging mass protests in several cities. The court’s three-judge panel said prosecutors failed to prove that Bibi violated the blasphemy law. “Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nasir said. The court announced its decision after an Oct. 8 appeal hearing on her case.
The mother of five first faced blasphemy accusations in 2009 after two Muslim women who worked on a farm with her refused to drink water from the same container she used. A mob later accused her of blasphemy, and in 2010, a Pakistani court sentenced her to death by hanging.
“I am very happy,” said Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, after the ruling. “My children are very happy. We are grateful to God.”
Islamists in Karachi and in northwestern Peshawar gathered to protest the ruling, and hundreds of others blocked the road connecting Islamabad to Rawalpindi. Ahead of the ruling, the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan Party warned in a statement, “If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences.”
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