Pakistan SC acquits Christian woman facing execution for blasphemy

Nov 01, 2018, 09:50 IST | Agencies

'Tolerance is the basic principle of Islam,' says the top judge while acquitting woman who has spent close to a decade in solitary confinement for insulting Islam in a fight with neighbours

Pakistan SC acquits Christian woman facing execution for blasphemy
Asia was convicted in 2010. Pic/AFP

Pakistan's Supreme Court in a landmark verdict Wednesday overturned the conviction of a Christian woman facing execution for blasphemy, sparking protests. Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours.

She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement. Her case has been deeply divisive in Pakistan where there is strong support for the controversial blasphemy laws. The blasphemy laws were promulgated by former military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1980s. A person convicted under these laws is given death sentence.

The apex court, in a three-member bench led by chief justice Saqib Nisar, issued the verdict on Wednesday morning, three weeks after they had reached a decision. "Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt," Nisar said.

He said Bibi could walk free from jail immediately. "Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges," said Nisar. "Tolerance is the basic principle of Islam," the top judge read out, noting that the religion condemns injustice and oppression.

8
No. of years Asia Bibi has spent in solitary confinement over the 'crime'

Don't confront the state, says Imran
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday told hardliners not to "confront the State" and refrain from vandalism after the verdict. In a video message, he said, "I ask these elements [protestors] to avoid confronting the State. But if they opted to do so, the State will fulfil its responsibilities... We will protect life and property of people...We will not let them [protestors] indulge in vandalism or close down the roads."

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