A Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy has had her conviction overturned by a Pakistani court. Asia Bibi has been on death row for eight years after she was found guilty of blasphemy against Islam’s prophet.
The mum-of-four faced execution by hanging after she became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.
She was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered her to be freed if she was not accused of any other crime. Chief Justice Saqib Nisar overturned the conviction by the Lahore High Court that had sentenced Bibi, a mother of four, to death in 2010.
Her case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help Bibi were assassinated.
A hardline Islamist party has threatened street protests if Bibi were to be freed or her sentence reduced. Insulting Islam’s prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions that they are almost impossible to defend against.
Dozens have been killed following blasphemy claims, sometimes by mobs of men.