Asia Bibi acquitted from death sentence

Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, has had her conviction overturned by the Supreme Court in Pakistan.

She has now been released from jail.

Observers who’ve watched the Bibi’s story unfold over the past eight years say the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to acquit the mother of five of blasphemy charges marks a major step toward making the country a more modern, tolerant nation.

In 2009 Bibi was charged with blasphemy after fetching water for herself and fellow workers on a hot summer day. Two women refused to drink from the same container as a Christian. The following year Bibi was sentenced to death.

According to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan’s Penal Code, insulting the Prophet Muhammad is a crime punishable by death. Offending the ‎Koran, Islam’s holy book, incurs life imprisonment.

After speaking to Bibi’s 18-year old daughter about Bibi’s release, John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said:

“We have to salute the courage of the justices in reaching this decision in the face of huge opposition from powerful extremists mobs. This really is a victory for justice, a triumph of honesty and truth over tyranny and oppression.

“For so many thousands of people who have prayed for Asia, this is a long-awaited day. We need to continue praying because now is the most delicate time.

“So many extremists want her dead and as the process towards her release gets underway, security concerns will be acute. Her family – indeed everyone associated with her – is in danger.”

Evangelical Christian writer and teacher Krish Kandiah spoke of his joy at Bibi’s release and concern for Pakistan:

“This is fantastic news. Asia Bibi is to be freed. Please pray for peace in Pakistan as the nation responds to the news.”

Father Bernard Cervellera, head of Asia News for Crux Now, says the decision to acquit Bibi “is something big,” and is proof that there are groups in Pakistan, even among Muslims, “who want a more modern Pakistan, more tied to the origins of this country.

“It must be a country that allows people to be free to practise their religion more than a state religion.”

Cervellera says the decision is also a show of courage from the judges, who sometimes cave under pressure from fundamentalist Islamic groups including death threats.

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News category: World.

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