Pakistan overturns Christian woman Asia Bibi's blasphemy verdict, death sentence

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan has acquitted a Christian woman who had been on death row for eight years after being accused of blasphemy.

Aasia Bibi, whose case has become iconic of fair-trial concerns in such accusations, was freed in a move the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party has said it will respond to with countrywide protests.

"....this appeal is allowed".

We all woke up this morning to the news of the Supreme Court giving its verdict on the Asia Bibi case.

In Pakistan, the mere rumor of blasphemy against Muhammad can ignite mob violence and lynchings. At least 74 have been killed in violence related to blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally. Pakistan's minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated later that year after demanding justice for Bibi.

Ms Bibi, a mother of five, has been offered asylum by several countries and will most likely leave the country if released over worries about her safety. Later, the guard, Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged for the assassination - a move that infuriated supporters of firebrand Muslim cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who launched a violent drive to block any possible changes in the law.

The TLP's leadership called for the death of Nasif, the chief justice, and two other judges on the panel.

Party spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said: "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".

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Street protests and blockades of major roads were spreading by mid-afternoon, paralysing parts of Islamabad, Lahore and other cities.

Asia Bibi's case gained even more prominence after the assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province.

Ms Bibi's case has been high on the agenda of religious hardliners in Pakistan, many of whom are fiercely opposed to her release.

WND reported only weeks ago that hundreds of protests were being held throughout Pakistan by Muslims threatening destruction and murder if the nation's Supreme Court doesn't order the execution of a Christian woman who gave her coworkers water. Her Muslim colleagues accused her of contaminating the water because she was a Christian.

Her case drew the attention of global rights groups and swiftly became the most high-profile in the country. "We don't go out of our home and if we go, we come out very carefully", he said.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the the capital punishment for breaking them has drawn concern from global rights organizations, "not least because they are sometimes misused to settle feuds, grab land, or persecute religious minorities by making false allegations", NPR's Phillip Reeves has reported.

Rights groups say the blasphemy law is exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.