Pakistan's top court rejects challenge to Asia Bibi acquittal

VIDEO: REUTERS
Pakistani security officials stand guard outside the Supreme Court as the court hears an appeal against the acquittal for Asia Bibi on Jan 29, 2019.
Pakistani security officials stand guard outside the Supreme Court as the court hears an appeal against the acquittal for Asia Bibi on Jan 29, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) - Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday (Jan 29) upheld the acquittal of a Christian woman who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, dismissing a petition filed by Islamists who have called for her execution.

“On merit, this petition is dismissed,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosar said in court.

Ms Asia Bibi, a farm worker, was convicted in 2010 of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours working in the fields with her objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Her conviction was overturned in October, prompting protests from religious hardliners calling for her death and demanding that the government prevent her from leaving the country.

She has always denied committing blasphemy.

Ms Bibi, who spent eight years on death row, has been in hiding since the Supreme Court freed her in October.

Hours before the Supreme Court announced its decision, Mr Shafeeq Ameeni, acting head of the hardline Tehreek-e Labaik movement, which led the protests last year, issued a new warning to the court not to rule in favour of the “blasphemer”.

Mr Ameeni was not immediately available for comment after the ruling.

Ms Bibi’s case attracted headlines around the world last year and rights group Amnesty International issued a statement calling for her to be allowed to “reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice”.

“The authorities must also resist and investigate any attempts to intimidate the Supreme Court. They have a duty to protect against threats of violence to harm religious minorities or the lives of judges or other government officials,” Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner Rimmel Mohydin said.