ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, October 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – After spending almost a decade fighting for her life against charges of blasphemy, Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi is finally free thanks to the country’s Supreme Court overturning her conviction.
In 2009, the farm worker and mother of five from the small town of Itan Wali was arrested for blasphemy over an argument with some Muslim co-workers who allegedly claimed they couldn’t drink from a cup of water she had touched, as her Christian faith contaminated it. She was accused of making offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad in the ensuing argument, in response to claims she should convert to Islam.
Bibi was subsequently beaten and allegedly raped at her home, during which her attackers coerced a blasphemy confession out of her. She was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to death by hanging. The case quickly garnered international attention, with groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) fighting on her behalf.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned Bibi’s conviction and authorized her immediate release, ruling that the “prosecution had failed to prove its case against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.”
“Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous,” Judge Asif Saeed Khan Khosa added. “It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’ but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Leare, ‘more sinned against than sinning.’”
Bibi, who has been held in solitary confinement and wasn’t present for the ruling, was shocked by the news, the BBC reports. “I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?” she reportedly asked via telephone.
“I am very happy. My children are very happy. We are grateful to God,” her husband Ashig Masih said, according to Fox News. “We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice. We knew that she is innocent.”
Despite the news, however, danger remains for Bibi and her family.
News of the ruling has already provoked violent protests by Islamic hardliners. The BBC reports that demonstrators are underway in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan. Protesters have engaged in “clashes” with police, and paramilitary has been dispatched to keep protesters from the Supreme Court building in Islamabad.
Persecution of Christians for “blasphemy” remains a serious problem in Pakistan. “More than 1,300 people have been charged in the last 30 years and many of them have been murdered before their trial is even complete,” Sky News reports.
Punjabi governor Salman Taseer was assassinated for speaking out on Bibi’s behalf and calling for the country’s blasphemy laws to be overhauled. The hardline Tehreek-e-Labaik party (TLP) has called for the death of the judges who freed Bibi.
“While this is a day of victory and celebration for Asia Bibi, her family, and all those who have relentlessly prayed for her, Asia and Christians in Pakistan need continued prayers,” the ACLJ’s Jordan Sekulow said, calling for the Pakistani government to provide Bibi with security and safe passage to someplace safer. “Today’s verdict will not make many in Pakistan happy. The death threats that have been issued against Asia and the justices should be taken seriously.”