Published: Wed, October 31, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

NA, other institutions should stand with Supreme Court: Bilawal

NA, other institutions should stand with Supreme Court: Bilawal

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam and ordered her freed, a ruling that set off protests by hardline Islamists but was welcomed by human rights advocates.

Insulting Islams prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions that they are nearly impossible to defend against.

The judgment added, "Asia Bibi be released immediately if not involved in any other case".

She was then told off by a Muslim neighbor, who turned to other Muslim women in the area to tell them the Christian devotee had dirtied the water by drinking from their cup. "We knew that she is innocent", he said.

The case was subsequently reached Lahore High Court which dismissed Noreen's appeal and upheld her death sentence on 16 October 2014.

Bibi says she was falsely accused and is very respectful of Muslims and Mohammed.

Asia Bibi was convicted for blasphemy under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly defaming Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). He had called for her to be pardoned and for the blasphemy laws to be overhauled.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the the capital punishment for breaking them has drawn concern from worldwide rights organizations, "not least because they are sometimes misused to settle feuds, grab land, or persecute religious minorities by making false allegations", NPR's Phillip Reeves has reported.

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Before the verdict, Bibi's lawyer told AP: "I have lost my health".

Protesters from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party gathered at various areas of the city in protest as the apex court earlier announced its decision.

Pakistan's 295-C blasphemy law is based on sharia (Islamic law) which mandates execution for those found guilty of committing blasphemy against Mohammed.

She denied charges but she was arrested and tried and a Sheikhupura judge sentenced her to death in November 2010.

Bibi was not in court to hear the ruling, and AFP news agency quoted her as saying by phone: "I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now?" Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was shot and killed by one of his guards in 2011 for defending Bibi and criticizing the misuse of the blasphemy law.

Asia Bibi, 47, had been on death row for eight years.

Mumtaz Qadri was hanged for the killing but has been hailed a martyr by hardliners.

But critics say the laws have often been used to get revenge after personal disputes, and that convictions are based on thin evidence.

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