Blasphemy case: Pakistan Supreme Court overturns Asia Bibi's death sentence

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Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam's prophet, ordering her to be freed if she was not accused of any other crime. Islamabad, the seat of the highest court in Pakistan, was on high security alert today.

He said: "The appeal is allowed".

Bibi, who is the first non-Muslim to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, has remained in solitary confinement for the past eight years.

Ms. Bibi has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy based on comments she allegedly made related to her Christian faith while drinking water by a well.

A trial court had convicted Aasia Bibi and sentenced her to death.

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Christians like Bibi are frequently targeted by accusations of blasphemy - a risky charge where even a mere whiff on an allegation has sparked lynchings. At least 74 have been killed in violence related to blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

The state hung his assassin Mumtaz Qadri in 2016 in a Supreme Court decision that was hailed by progressives, but brought hardliners into the streets supporting Qadri and demanding Bibi's death.

The mum-of-three had been held at an undisclosed location for security reasons and is expected to leave the country.

Supporters of Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP), which was founded to support blasphemy laws, immediately condemned the ruling and blocked roads in major cities, pelting police with stones in the eastern city of Lahore.

'We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice.

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Party spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said: "The patron in chief of TLP, Muhammad Afzal Qadri, has issued the edict that says the chief justice and all those who ordered the release of Asia deserve death".

Bibi's lawyer on Wednesday called the court ruling "great news" for Pakistan. She was subsequently accused of passing derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the the capital punishment for breaking them has drawn concern from worldwide rights organizations, "not least because they are sometimes misused to settle feuds, grab land, or persecute religious minorities by making false allegations", NPR's Phillip Reeves has reported.

The decision is a victory for human rights activists, who said the country's blasphemy law has been used to settle personal scores or to attack minority communities.

She has also been a target for hardline Islamists in Pakistan, who have vowed to retaliate if she's released.

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The group's emir for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said: "The goal of this protest is to raise awareness that if any such judgment is delivered in this sensitive case that grants concessions to the blasphemer Asia, then we will protest all over the country".