Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian mother on death row

Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian mother on death row Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws in 2010, has had her conviction overturned by the Supreme Court in Pakistan.

She was told by the judge she was free to go immediately. The court, in a three-member bench led by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, released the verdict this morning in Islamabad, in what has been praised as a landmark decision by the judicial courts against coercion and death threats by Islamist groups.

The decision to release Ms Bibi had initially been made three weeks ago, but was delayed because of threats by blasphemy campaigners to hold protests and kill the judges if they did not uphold the sentence.

“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” said Nisar, reading out the judgment.

“It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’,” reads the judgment written by Justice Asif Khosa, “but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’.”

The 47-year-old-mother of four was sentenced to hang for blasphemy in 2010, and has remained in solitary confinement for the past eight years. She had angered fellow Muslim farm workers by taking a sip of water from a cup she had fetched for them on a hot day. When they demanded she convert to Islam, she refused, prompting a mob to later allege that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed.

Earlier this month, her husband, Ashiq Masih, said his wife “was spiritually strong” and “ready and willing to die for Christ”, adding that she will “never convert to Islam”.

In February, Pope Francis met Ashiq at the Vatican, and Christian churches in Lahore held fasts and prayer sessions before the verdict.