Asia Bibi blasphemy acquittal upheld in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has upheld its decision to overturn Asia Bibi’s blasphemy conviction and death sentence.

A three-judge panel declared her innocent today. According to Bibi’s lawyers, no further right of appeal against her acquittal exists.

Last October, Bibi, a Catholic Pakistani woman, was acquitted by Pakistan’s highest court. But in a deal with the Islamist leaders who backed demonstrations and riots across the country, the government agreed to a final review of the verdict.

Bibi has been kept in hiding since October, unable to leave the country until the final review was completed. Her immediate family and her lawyer fled the country in fear of their lives, after death threats were made against them. Now, Bibi’s supporters are declaring she must be allowed to leave also. It is believed she will join her family in Canada.

Despite further threats from Islamist hardliners today after the court’s decision, the British Pakistani Christian Association’s chairperson Wilson Chowdry said in a statement that today is a “day of rejoicing.”

“Asia Bibi has always been innocent and it is a blight on Pakistan that it took almost ten years to come to this decision to free her,” Chowdry said.

“Her freedom is a massive step in the advancement of equality and justice in Pakistan.

“I am sure years from now her bravery in the face of such malice and her steadfast and resolute faith in Christ despite the pressure to adopt Islam, will become a galvanising cry for change which will topple the deep-set intolerance in Pakistan.”