Supreme Court acquits Asia Bibi

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Pakistan's Supreme Court overturned a Christian woman's conviction for blasphemy Wednesday and set aside the death sentence that was handed to her. Aasia Bibi was convicted under Pakistan's stringent anti-blasphemy law for allegedly making defamatory comments about Prophet Muhammad during a argument with Muslim women in 2009.

During the appeal hearing on October 8, a three-member panel of Supreme Court justices appeared to question the case against her, with Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, considered Pakistan's top expert in criminal law, listing flaws in the proceedings.

"....this appeal is allowed".

"The judgement of high court as well as trial court is reversed".

"The patron in chief of TLP, Muhammad Afzal Qadri, has issued the edict that says the chief justice and all those who ordered the release of Asia deserve death", TLP party spokesman Ejaz Ashraf said, as cited by the news agency.

Insulting Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor of blasphemy can ignite lynchings.

On Oct 13 this year, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, a religio-political party headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, threatened to "paralyse the country within hours if the Supreme Court sets Asia Bibi free". "We knew that she is innocent", said Ashiq Masih.

Bibi has always denied blaspheming.

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This morning's hearing was Ms Bibi's final appeal against execution.

The governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered in 2011 after he spoke in defence of Bibi and called for reform of blasphemy laws.

A hardline party in Pakistan on Wednesday called for the death of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and two other judges who overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.

Supporters from an extremist Islamist party protest against freeing Asia Bibi.

Bibi's lawyer Saiful Mulook told AFP: "The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings".

She was then told off by a Muslim neighbor, who turned to other Muslim women in the area to tell them the Christian devotee had dirtied the water by drinking from their cup. Besides, they said, the allegation of a quarrel before the incident in which Bibi was first insulted for being a Christian had also not been proved.

Bibi's legal team celebrated the court's decision amid beefed-up security in Islamabad after religious hardliners had vowed to protest any acquittal of the case.

At least 1,472 people were charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2016, according to statistics collected by the Center for Social Justice, a Lahore-based group.

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