Pakistan's Supreme Court Wednesday acquitted a Christian woman convicted for blasphemy, prompting protests by far-right groups that have been demanding her execution for years. 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. The delay followed threats by blasphemy campaigners to hold protests.
Protests break out in parts of Karachi (pic 1), Lahore & Islamabad (pic 2) after Pakistan's Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman #AsiaBibi. She had been earlier sentenced to death for blasphemy. (Pics & info: Samaa TV) pic.twitter.com/6R6C6v9pl9— ANI (@ANI) October 31, 2018
On Wednesday, judges said they agreed that Bibi had not been tried fairly, noting "glaring and stark" contradictions in the prosecution's evidence, and ordered her immediate release.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisarm, who read out the ruling, said Asia Bibi could walk free from jail in Sheikupura, near Lahore, immediately if not wanted in connection with any other case.
"I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?" AFP news agency quoted Asia Bibi as saying.
Bibi, 53, a native of the central Pakistan village of Ithan Wali, was accused by two Muslim women of having insulted Islam's Prophet Muhammad and the Quran during an argument sparked by their refusal to drink water from the same vessel as her in 2009.
Bibi's case gained prominence when when former governor of Pakistan's Punjab province Salman Taseer was killed in 2011 for supporting her and criticising the 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.
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Critics say strict blasphemy laws have often been used to get revenge after personal disputes, and that convictions are based on thin evidence.
Dozens of people have been charged under the laws. Though, Bibi is being released but there are fears that she might be at risk of being attacked by militants.