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Pakistan SC Upholds Acquittal of Aasia Bibi in Blasphemy Case

Bibi will now be free to leave the country and join her daughters, who fled to Canada & were granted asylum there. 

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World
2 min read
Aasia Bibi (left) and her lawyer Saiful Malook. Bibi will now be free to leave the country and join her daughters in Canada. 
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Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday, 29 January, upheld the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, clearing the last legal hurdle and freeing her to leave the country.

The three-judge panel of the country's Supreme Court on Tuesday said the arguments of the lawyer acting on behalf of the petitioners did not satisfy the judges.

Radical Islamists had demanded the court reverse its 31 October acquittal and execute Bibi.

Bibi, who spent eight years on death row and remained under guard at a secret place since her acquittal because of death threats from Islamic extremists, will now be free to leave the country and join her daughters, who fled to Canada and were granted asylum there.

Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumour that someone has committed blasphemy can ignite lynchings.

Aasia Bibi’s lawyer had vowed to secure her freedom prior to the Supreme Court’s meeting on 29 January. The attorney, Saiful Malook, who had also received death threats and had fled the country after her acquittal, was back in Islamabad to attend Tuesday’s hearing.

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"I am sure the review petition... will be rejected," Malook had told The Associated Press on Monday, 28 January. He said he had asked authorities to provide him with personal security.

The petitioners "have no case against my client, I am sure of that," Malook had added.

The 54-year-old mother of five was arrested in 2009 after being accused of blasphemy following a quarrel with two Muslim farm workers who refused to drink from a water container used by a Christian in a village in eastern Punjab province. A local mob, incited by a cleric, accused Bibi of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. Police arrested her, and she was sentenced to death in 2010.

Her acquittal led hardline Islamists to stage nationwide protests for days demanding the re-imposition of her death sentence.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government had promised Bibi would not be allowed to leave Pakistan until her case was reviewed, bringing a halt to protests.

Days later, authorities arrested radical cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi and several of his followers for organising rallies against Bibi. The cleric and the others remain in custody pending trial for damaging public property and threatening Supreme Court judges.

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The cleric petitioning for Bibi's return to death row, Qari Salam, is linked with Rizvi's Tehreek-i-Labaik party, which first brought the case forward in 2009.

Rizvi's party had said on Monday that it will not accept any decision in favour of Bibi's release. In a strongly-worded statement, the party asked its followers to prepare for more mass protests.

Pakistani police had stepped up security around the Supreme Court in Islamabad on the eve of its ruling.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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