Pakistan hardline groups protest after landmark blasphemy ruling

Pakistan hardline groups protest after landmark blasphemy ruling

Pakistan hardline groups protest after landmark blasphemy ruling

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar headed a three-member bench that quashed her death sentence and ordered her release.

He said: "The appeal is allowed".

She has been offered asylum by several countries and was expected to leave the country if acquitted.

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious political party chant slogans during a protest on Wednesday against the court decision to overturn the conviction of Asia Bibi.

"Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges".

Bibi was set to be released immediately according to the court, although there was no word if any security arrangements were being made for her protection.

The 51-year-old Christian woman has been on the death row since November 2010 after she was convicted on charges of committing blasphemy during an argument with two Muslim women in Sheikhupura.

Insulting Islams prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions that they are nearly impossible to defend against.

Asia Bibi was arrested in 2009 and convicted in 2010 under section 295-C of Pakistan's penal code that punishes blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad with the death penalty. They demanded she convert, she refused.

Paramilitary troops have been deployed in Islamabad to prevent protesters from reaching the Supreme Court, where security has been stepped up up to protect the judges and authorities have also put security in place at churches around the country.

Earlier, the far-right TLP threatened to hold countrywide demonstrations if Bibi was acquitted.

The TLP was founded out of a movement supporting a bodyguard who assassinated Lahore provincial governor Salman Taseer for advocating for Bibi in 2011. Dozens have been killed following blasphemy claims, sometimes by mobs of men.

Bibi's lawyer Saiful Mulook told AFP: "The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings".

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

Rights groups say the blasphemy law is increasingly exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores. His assassin Mumtaz Qadri was executed in 2016 after the court found him guilty of murder.

In February, Ms. Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih and one of her daughters met with Pope Francis shortly before Rome's ancient Colosseum was lit in red one evening in solidarity with persecuted Christians, and Ms. Bibi in particular.

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