Asia Bibi, the Roman Catholic woman who has been on death row in Pakistan for allegedly committing blasphemy against Islam, has had her acquittal upheld. The Supreme Court of Pakistan maintained its decision to overturn her conviction and death sentence.
She was originally convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours and spent eight years on death row. But the Supreme Court quashed her conviction last October, sparking protests by Islamic hardliners who petitioned the court to overturn their ruling.
Asia Bibi, also known as Asia Noreen, was unable to leave Pakistan while an appeal request was pending.
‘She should now be free to reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice,’ Amnesty International said in a statement.
According to a BBC correspondent in Islamabad, Asia Bibi is being kept by authorities at a secret location in the city.
The ruling clears the way for her to leave Pakistan. But at the time of writing, it is not clear when that will happen and where she will go. She has been offered asylum by a number of countries, and some unconfirmed reports say several members of her family may already be abroad.
Writing for the Christian Post, Todd Nettleton said he rejoices that Asia Bibi will be free, but he weeps that it took so long.
He added, ‘We rejoice that Pakistan’s legal system worked … but we weep that the unjust blasphemy law remains in place.
And he said, ‘We rejoice that one family is free from persecution and oppression … but we weep that so many Pakistani Christians are threatened with death every day’.
Asia Bibi’s trial stems from an argument she had with a group of women in June 2009. They were harvesting fruit when a row broke out about a bucket of water. The women said that because she had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean.
Prosecutors alleged that in the row which followed, the women said Asia Bibi should convert to Islam. She was later beaten up and then she confessed to committing blasphemy.