Pakistan upholds acquittal of woman in blasphemy case

1000 (1)Source: Associated Press

By KATHY GANNON

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s top court on Tuesday upheld its acquittal of a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, dealing a blow to radical Islamists who had staged violent mass protests last year calling for her execution.

Aasia Bibi watched from a secret location as the decision was announced on television, according to a friend who was on the phone with her at the time. He said Bibi’s first thought upon hearing the news was that she would soon be able to join her daughters in Canada, where they have been granted asylum.

The friend spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety. Bibi, her lawyer and the Supreme Court judges who eventually freed her have all received death threats from radical Islamists, and a small army of police and paramilitary Rangers was on hand to guard the courthouse and surrounding area on Tuesday.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere accusation can spark mob violence and lynchings. A provincial governor who defended Bibi was shot and killed, as was a government minority minister who questioned the blasphemy law.

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