Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Bilawal Bhutto voices support for Supreme Court after landmark Asia Bibi verdict

Pak Supreme Court To Rule On Christian Woman Facing Death Over Blasphemy Asia Bibi, on death row for blasphemy since 2010, freed by Pakistan Supreme Court
Leonard Rios | 31 October, 2018, 15:30

Pakistan's Supreme Court has acquitted a Christian woman who has been on death row for nearly eight years on blasphemy charges.

A hardline party in Pakistan on Wednesday called for the death of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and two other judges who overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.

Justice Nisar while reading out the verdict said, "The appeal is allowed".

She has been offered asylum by several countries and was expected to leave the country if acquitted.

The Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) two weeks ago organized a mass anti-blasphemy rally calling on Bibi to be executed as the court waited to release its verdict on her final appeal.

As long as she faces no other charges, the woman should be released, the court ordered. "Pakistan's Supreme Court must be appreciated that it upheld the law of the land and didn't succumb to any pressure".

"The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings", Bibi's lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook told AFP.

Her original conviction stemmed from an argument with her Muslim women coworkers on a farm over whether Bibi, as a Christian, was pure enough to share their water. "We knew that she is innocent", he said.

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At the Supreme Court hearing earlier this month - a hearing our legal team on the ground in Pakistan attended - Asia Bibi's defense attorney in Pakistan called much of the prosecution's evidence - or lack thereof - into question. Dozens have been killed following blasphemy claims, sometimes by mobs of men.

The decision is a victory for human rights activists, who said the country's blasphemy law has been used to settle personal scores or to attack minority communities.

Meanwhile, CJP Nisar had observed that committing blasphemy was the most appalling and spiteful offence, and not only "our laws but the fundamentals of our religion also place strict standards of proof to prove the crime".

The matter was decided by a three-judge bench, which had reserved its verdict on October 8.

It has been a case of high-tension from the outset, with Salman Taseer, a Punjabi governor who supported Ms Bibi, gunned down in broad daylight by his bodyguard in Islamabad in 2011.

Asia Bibi was arrested in 2009 and convicted in 2010 under section 295-C of Pakistan's penal code that punishes blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad with the death penalty.

Ms Bibi's representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbours and her accusers had contradicted themselves.

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