UPDATED – ISLAMABAD (CNS) — Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld its acquittal of a Pakistani Catholic woman sentenced to hang for blasphemy.
Asia Bibi is now free to leave Pakistan and is expected to join her family in Canada, where they were granted asylum. A Canadian bishop who has worked on arranging for Bibi to live in Canada told The Catholic Register, Canadian Catholic weekly, that the location of Bibi’s daughters and their family friends must remain secret to protect them from Islamic extremists.
AP reported that Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa stood by the court’s Oct. 31 verdict, which criticized the conflicting testimony against Bibi.
“You think we give the death sentence to someone on the basis of false evidence?” he said according to media reports. “Such lies were told that one statement doesn’t match with another.”
Tehreek-e-Labbaik, an extremist group, challenged the Oct. 31 acquittal. Protests erupted after the original acquittal, and the BBC reported that, after the Jan. 29 decision, Pakistan’s electronic media were downplaying the story “in a concerted move to forestall public unrest.”
The ordeal of Bibi, who worked as a farmhand, began in June 2009 when she was accused of insulting Muhammad, the founder of Islam, after Muslim co-workers objected to her drinking from a common water supply because she is a Christian.
Bibi was rescued from a mob by police, only to be sentenced to death in 2010 for violating Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which makes insulting Muhammad a capital offense.
No one has been executed under the law so far, but Christians who are falsely accused often are lynched or spend many years in prison.
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