Christian woman Asia Bibi's acquittal in a blasphemy case was upheld by the Pakistani Supreme Court amid threats by extremists.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court Tuesday upheld the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, dismissing a petition filed by Islamic fundamentalists who have called for her execution.
“On merit, this petition is dismissed,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in court, saying the petitioners, led by a village prayer leader, had failed to point out any mistake in the original judgment.
Bibi, a farm worker, was convicted in 2010 for making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors working in the fields with her objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. She has always denied committing blasphemy.
Her conviction was overturned in October, prompting protests from religious hardliners calling for her death and demanding that the government prevent her from leaving the country.
In remarks in court, Khosa was severely critical of the petitioners’ attempt to have the judgment reversed and said Bibi had been convicted on the basis of false evidence, pointing to discrepancies in testimony presented in the original case.
“You think we give the death sentence to someone on the basis of false evidence?” Khosa said. “Such lies were told that one statement doesn’t match with another.”
“Please point out any error in our judgment and we’re ready to rectify it,” he said. “You start declaring someone deserves to be killed just on the basis of false evidence.”
Bibi is now free to leave the country. At present, she is under guard at a secret location in Pakistan. In November, Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau said his country was in talks with Pakistan about helping her.
Hours before the Supreme Court announced its decision, Shafeeq Ameeni, acting head of the hardline Tehreek-e Labaik group, which led the protests last year, issued a new warning to the court not to rule in favor of the “blasphemer”.
"I am really gratefully to everybody. Now after nine years, it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters," a friend quoted Bibi as saying, on condition of anonymity.
"She deserves to be murdered according to shariah," said Hafiz Ehtisham Ahmed a member of the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in Islamabad, "If she goes abroad, don't Muslims live there? If she goes out of Pakistan ... anybody can kill her there."