Pakistan Supreme Court acquits Asia Bibi from blasphemy charges after eight years of confinement
Saturday, November 3, 2018
On Wednesday, the Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi from charges. Asia Bibi is a Christian who was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2010 and remained in confinement on death row for the past eight years awaiting a final decision, reportedly much of it in solitary confinement.
Headed by the Chief Justice, the bench composed of three judges ruled the prosecution "categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt" and Bibi was freed from the charges. In the 56-page-long decision, the Supreme Court said, "This appeal is allowed. The judgements of the High Court, as well as the Trial Court, are reversed. Consequently, the conviction as also the sentence of death awarded to the appellant is set aside and she is acquitted of the charge".
In 2009, two Muslim women accused Bibi of defaming Islamic prophet . Bibi was arrested under 295-C of the after local cleric Qari Mohammad Salaam registered a formal complaint against Bibi. Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death or by life imprisonment. Bibi's case was appealed in the Supreme Court after Lahori upheld her conviction in 2014.
Following the verdict, a(TLP) leader, Afzal Qadri, said "[The judges] who have ordered the release of the accursed Asia [Bibi] are all liable to be killed under religious edict". Demonstrations broke out in various cities across the country after the verdict. Another leader of TLP, Khadim Rizvi, said he would "paralyse the country within hours" if Bibi was acquitted and set free.
A main high-way in Pakistan's capital Islamabad and several roads in Karachi and Punjab province's capital Lahore were obstructed by supporters of TLP and other religious groups sparking disordered traffic jams. Per the local reports, governments of three provinces — , Punjab, and Sindh— had imposed section 144 which prevented gathering of more than four people in public. Section 144 was imposed till November 10.
The verdict of Bibi's case was welcomed by Amnesty International. South Asia director deputy Omar Waraich said, "Justice has finally prevailed. The message must go out that the blasphemy laws will no longer be used to persecute the country's most vulnerable minorities". Christians account for about one and a half percent of the population of Pakistan. In 2010, then Catholic Pope Benedict XVI called for Bibi's release.
Regarding the blockades in various cities and the threats against the judges, Pakistani Prime Ministeraddressed the public via TV broadcast and said, "Which government can function when people say that kill the judges, rebel against the army chief? [...] If the Supreme Court does not issue a verdict according to their wishes, does that mean they will come out on the roads and paralyse the country?"
Prime Minister Imran Khan also said, "They are inciting you for their own political gain, you should not get trapped by them for the sake of the country, they are doing no service to Islam [...] We will protect people's properties and lives, we will not allow any sabotage, we will not allow any traffic to be stopped". He supported the Supreme Court decision and said it was "according to the constitution [of Pakistan] and Pakistan's constitution is according to the teachings of Islam".
After the verdict was announced, Bibi told Agence France-Presse, "I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?"
- Munir Ahmed and Asim Tanvee for AP. "Christian woman acquitted in Pakistan to leave country" — , November 1, 2018
- Sana Jamal. "All you need to know about the Asia Bibi case" — , November 1, 2018
- Memphis Barker. "Asia Bibi: Pakistan court overturns blasphemy death sentence" — , October 31, 2018
- "Asia Bibi acquitted: Complete Supreme Court verdict" — , October 31, 2018
- "Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row" — , October 31, 2018
- Asad Hashim. "Asia Bibi: Pakistan court overturns blasphemy death sentence" — , October 31, 2018
- "Protests erupt in major cities as SC acquits Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges" — , October 31, 2018
- Web Desk. "Asia Bibi's acquittal: TLP protests in various cities across Pakistan" — , October 31, 2018
- "Bilawal Bhutto voices support for Supreme Court after landmark Asia Bibi verdict" — , October 31, 2018
- AFP. "Asia Bibi: the Pakistani Christian acquitted of blasphemy" — , October 31, 2018
- Dawn Com. "Do not clash with the state': PM Khan issues stern warning to agitators after Asia Bibi verdict" — , October 31, 2018