Pakistani court overturns Christian's death sentence for blasphemy

Pakistani court overturns Christian's death sentence for blasphemy

Pakistani court overturns Christian's death sentence for blasphemy

Pakistan's Supreme Court is due on Wednesday to rule on the final appeal by a Christian woman sentenced to death by hanging over blasphemy allegations, a case that has drawn global attention and condemnation.

Insulting the Prophet Muhammad is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and dozens have been killed following accusations, some by angry mobs.

"The judgement of the High Court and that of the trial court is reversed", said Chief Justice Saqib Nasar, as he ordered Bibi's release unless she is required on any other charges.

Her original conviction stemmed from an argument with her Muslim women coworkers on a farm over whether Bibi, as a Christian, was pure enough to share their water. Let us know in the comments.

She was sentenced to death by a trial court in November 2010, with the Lahore High Court upholding the conviction four years later.

She was asked to fetch water, but the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl. Her appeal case is now pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

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.

Demonstrations broke out in major cities across the country following the verdict, with approximately a thousand club-wielding demonstrators blocking Islamabad's main highway as several roads in the port city of Karachi were barricaded by protesters sparking chaotic traffic jams.

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Ms. Bibi has always denied blaspheming.

Pakistan's 295-C blasphemy law is based on sharia (Islamic law) which mandates execution for those found guilty of committing blasphemy against Mohammed.

Before the verdict, Bibi's lawyer told AP: "I have lost my health".

Mere calls to reform the law have provoked violence, most notably the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's most populous province Punjab, by his own bodyguard in broad daylight in Islamabad in 2011.

Bibi's representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbours and that her accusers had contradicted themselves.

The Vatican had also appealed and called for the release of Ms Bibi, and Pope Francis met with her husband, Ashiq Masih, and daughter earlier this year. His assassin Mumtaz Qadri was executed in 2016 after the court found him guilty of murder.

"The message must go out that the blasphemy laws will no longer be used to persecute the country's most vulnerable minorities".

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