The Supreme Court of Pakistan has acquitted Asia Bibi, the Christian women on death row for eight years for alleged blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.
The judges stated that the prosecution had “categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt" and that her confession of agreeing to blasphemy was delivered under duress, as reported by BBC.
Her first appeal was dismissed, but the Pakistan SC stayed her execution in 2015. Saiful Malook, her counsel, earlier said that there were severe discrepancies in the case and hoped her case would be overturned.
A mother of five Bibi was arrested in 2009 after a quarrel with her fellow field workers who said she defiled Prophet Mohammed’s name. Many the country demanded her execution, and a governor and a minister of minorities were even assassinated in 2011 for supporting her. The grave of the assassin is visited by people who revere him as a martyr.
Under the Pakistan penal code, blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Widely criticised and reviled by international human rights groups, the law has been used disproportionately against minorities and journalists. Rumours of insulting could even lead to massive lynchings.
Bibi received global support from Christians who condemned the case as an attack on her Christian identity. David Curry, CEO of Open Doors, a US organisation that lobbies Christian minority rights, said they were “breathing a sigh of relief”. He stated that her charges stemmed from her Christian identity as well as false accusations against her.
On the other hand, the continued prolonging of the case received condemnation from radical Islamist groups in Pakistan, who have demanded that death penalty be carried out and threatened widespread protests in the event of her being freed, as reported by CNN.