Pakistan's top court has rejected a challenge to the acquittal of Asia Bibi who was on death row for eight years on blasphemy charges.
The Supreme Court upheld its decision to acquit Asia Bibi after a challenge was launched by religious hardliners who held violent protests after Asia was found not guilty in November 2018.
Open Doors welcomes the news. Head of Advocacy at Open Doors, Zoe Smith said, “We’re absolutely thrilled with today’s ruling by Pakistan’s Supreme Court to uphold Asia Bibi’s acquittal. We are overjoyed that justice has prevailed and are praying that this heralds a new era of equal rights for Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.”
At the moment, Asia is still under protective custody at an undisclosed location. When or even if she will leave the country is still unknown. “Asia and her family’s safety remains of paramount importance,” said Zoe Smith. “Many Christians will still be praying for their safety.”
Asia Bibi's case has attracted worldwide attention and led to much criticism of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. Asia Bibi was arrested in 2009 after allegedly making derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammad during an argument with a Muslim woman. The Muslim woman had refused water from Asia, a colleague, on the grounds that it was 'unclean' because it had been handled by a Christian.
Asia was found guilty, becoming the first woman to be sentenced to death under Article 295C of Pakistan's penal code, which imposes death sentences for offences of defamation against Mohammad.
In the summer of 2015 Asia was granted leave to appeal her death sentence. Finally in November 2018 she was acquitted of any wrong doing and release from prison. But due to mass protests by hardliners she was barred to leave the country as an appeal against her acquittal was launched.
Today (29 January 2019) the appeal was thrown out and Asia Bibi’s appeal was upheld. After eight years facing the death penalty, Asia is finally free.
Pakistan is number 5 on the Open Doors World Watch List.