Jailed Christian mother acquitted by Supreme Court after eight years. Violent protests erupt in major cities.
Today the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Asia Bibi of committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad, a crime punishable with death in the Muslim country, amid threats of nationwide paralyzing protests and “horrible” consequences to judges and army generals if the Christian mother of five was released.
In response, protests have already erupted in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi, among other cities.
In their final judgment, reviewed by CT, reversing Bibi’s convictions by two lower courts and removing her death sentence, the panel of three judges ruled that Bibi was “wrongly” accused by two sisters with the help of a local cleric, based on “material contradictions and inconsistent statements of the witnesses” that “cast a shadow of doubt on the prosecution’s version of facts.”
“Furthermore, the alleged extra-judicial confession was not voluntary but rather resulted out of coercion and undue pressure as the appellant was forcibly brought before the complainant in presence of a gathering, who were threatening to kill her; as such, it cannot be made the basis of a conviction,” they wrote.
“Therefore, the appellant being innocent deserves acquittal,” the judges concluded.
One even accused Bibi’s accusers of violating a covenant made by Muhammad with Christians in the seventh century but still valid today.
“Blasphemy is a serious offense,” wrote justice Asif Saeed Khosa, “but the insult of the appellant’s religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous.
“It is …