Asia Bibi free to leave Pakistan
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 1/29/19, 10:17 am
The Pakistani Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the acquittal of Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman and mother of five sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy against Islam. The high court dismissed a petition asking it to review its Oct. 31 acquittal of Bibi and send her back to death row. Tuesday’s ruling finally clears Bibi to leave the country and seek asylum elsewhere.
Pakistani Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, who led the panel of judges that dismissed the petition, said in court that Bibi’s accusers committed perjury, noting fabricated evidence and contradictory statements by accusing Islamic clerics. “The image of Islam we are showing the world gives me much grief and sorrow,” Khosa said. Bibi’s attorney, Saiful Malook, called the decision a victory for the Pakistani Constitution and the rule of law, expressing hope the acquittal would deter false blasphemy allegations in the future. Malook returned to Islamabad for the court ruling after fleeing the country amid death threats. Bibi remains hidden in an Islamabad safe house. After her acquittal in October, thousands of Islamists rallied across Pakistan to call for her execution.
Riot police in full gear surrounded the court Tuesday, and police searched all cars on the main road outside. Mohammad Shafiq Amini, the acting leader of the Tehreek-i-Labaik party, which has long campaigned for Bibi’s execution, sent a video message to followers rejecting the decision as “cruel and unjust” and calling on supporters to hold nationwide rallies against her release. Radical Islamists took to the streets later Tuesday to protest, calling for the killing of the judges who issued the ruling and the overthrow of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Bibi spent eight years on death row over a 2009 incident involving two Muslim women who worked on a farm with her and refused to drink water from the container she used. A Pakistani court sentenced her to death by hanging in 2010.
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Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.