Pakistan frees Christian mom

Source:AFP Published: 2018/10/31 21:53:40

Supreme Court overturns death sentence for blasphemy

Pakistan's Supreme Court Wednesday overturned the conviction of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother facing execution for blasphemy, in a landmark case which has incited violence.

Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in conservative Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam and its prophet Mohammed can provoke death at the hands of vigilantes - and the acquittal immediately sparked large protests from hard-liners.

Bibi appeared to be in a state of disbelief after hearing that Pakistan's Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had quashed her conviction nearly eight years after she was first sentenced to death.

"I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?" Bibi told AFP by phone from prison after the ruling.

"I just don't know what to say, I am very happy, I can't believe it."

Protests broke out in major cities across the country following the verdict, with approximately a thousand club-wielding demonstrators blocking Islamabad's main highway as roads in the port city of Karachi were barricaded by protesters sparking chaotic traffic jams.

But the acquittal was met with near silence on the country's airwaves as broadcasters appeared to steer clear of covering the controversial topic.

Bibi was set to be released immediately according to the court. Her legal team celebrated the court's decision amid beefed-up security in Islamabad.

"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.

"This is the biggest and happiest day of my life."

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

The allegations against Bibi date back to 2009 when she was working in a field and was asked to fetch water. Muslim women she was laboring with allegedly objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl. The women went to a local cleric and accused Bibi of blasphemy, a charge punishable by death under colonial-era legislation.


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