Asia Bibi, a Christian mother-of-five, is free after eight years in prison over an argument with Muslim women about drinking from a bucket of water.
Pakistan’s top court cleared the last legal hurdle and gave Asia Bibi the liberty to leave the country in a move that surprised radical Islamists who had demanded her execution.
The three-judge Supreme Court panel had “insisted on very strict proofs of blasphemy” and found none, Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, said.
Pakistan’s Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa who led the panel of judges dismissed the petition filed by radical religious leaders. The extremists had petitioned the court to overturn its acquittal and send her back to prison for execution. He said in court that Bibi’s accusers were guilty of perjury and if the case had not been so sensitive, they should have been jailed for life. “The image of Islam we are to the world gives me more griefs and sorrow” khosa said
Bibi, who spent eight years on death row and who has been under guard at a secret place since her acquittal last October, expressed her joy after reading the news on television.
A friend who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity narrated the response of Bibi after the news
“I am really gratefully to everybody, now after nine years it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters.”
Bibi’s ordeal began on a hot day in 2009 when she brought water to fellow farmhands who refused to drink from the same container as a Christian woman. Two of her fellow farmworkers argued with Bibi and later accused her of insulting Islam’s prophet.
Following protests after Bibi’s acquittal, the authorities arrested radical clerics Khadim Hussain Rizvi and Mohammad Afzal Qadri, both leaders of the Tehreekk-e-Labbaik Party, and several of their followers for destroying public property during rallies against Bibi and for inciting their followers to violence. The clerics and the others remain in custody.
Pakistani police have stepped up security around the Supreme Court in Islamabad ahead of its Tuesday decision.