Extremists Want Her to Die. Instead, Court Frees Her (Again)

Pakistani Supreme Court upholds acquittal of Christian accused of blasphemy, sentenced to die
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 29, 2019 8:45 AM CST
In this Nov. 20, 2010, file photo, Asia Bibi listens to officials at a prison in Sheikhupura, near Lahore, Pakistan.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – Asia Bibi is finally free to leave Pakistan, if she hasn't already. On Tuesday, the country's Supreme Court upheld its own acquittal of Bibi—a Christian mother first arrested a decade ago on blasphemy charges and sentenced to death in 2010—rejecting a challenge to its earlier decision and streamlining the path for Bibi to flee, which many expect her to do, the Guardian reports. Bibi got into a disagreement with farmworkers in 2009 and was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, but the Supreme Court ruled in October that the evidence used against her was weak, and that her supposed confession was made under duress. The court's decision to reverse her original conviction was met with nationwide violence prompted by Islamic radicals, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan apparently gave in to their demands, allowing an appeal to be submitted on the court's decision.

Christians worldwide, including Pope Francis, had lobbied for her release, CNN notes. "The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow," Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said Tuesday as the three-judge committee rejected the appeal, adding that Bibi's accusers should've been jailed for perjury, per the AP. Bibi—who the BBC notes was required to stay in Pakistan while the petition was pending—has had to remain in hiding since her release last fall, with extremists threatening to kill her even if the Supreme Court kept her acquittal intact. "She deserves to be murdered, according to Sharia," one Islamic radical tells AFP. "If she goes out of Pakistan ... anybody can kill her." Two of Bibi's daughters are said to be in Canada, and it's expected she may seek asylum there; PM Justin Trudeau has previously said his government would be willing to help her out. (Read more Asia Bibi stories.)

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