Pakistan high court scraps death sentence for woman accused of blasphemy

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Pakistan suspended mobile phone networks in major cities on Friday and many schools were closed as Islamist groups protested for a third day against the acquittal of a Christian woman facing the death penalty for blasphemy.

Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Ashiq Mesih and Eisham Ashiq, Asia Bibi's husband and daughter, speak to CNA in Rome April 15, 2015.

A month after Taseer was killed, Pakistan's religious minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who spoke out against the blasphemy law, was shot dead in Islamabad.

On Wednesday though the Supreme Court acquitted her, saying that the case was based on flimsy evidence and her confession was delivered in front of a crowd "threatening to kill her". Authorities also stepped up security near the facility where Bibi was being held for her safety.

Her case drew the attention of global rights groups and swiftly became the most high-profile in the country.

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Some radical groups led by imams have already decreed that they will oppose her release.

"Asia Bibi has finally been served justice", lawyer Saiful Mulook told Reuters.

The reason the Supreme Court heard Ms. Bibi's appeal and acknowledged in its judgment what had been widely known - that witnesses against her had either retracted their testimony or contradicted each other - can be found in Pakistan's severe financial woes.

During the three days of protests, TLP blockaded major roads across the coastal metropolis of Karachi, eastern city of Lahore, and capital Islamabad.

After several weeks of delays and threats by Islamists groups against the panel judges, the Supreme Court overturned her death sentence today and ordered her immediate release.

"They all three deserve to be killed".

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The agreement bears the signatures of Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sahibzada Dr Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, provincial law minister Raja Basharat and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leaders Pir Afzal Qadri and Muhammad Waheed Noor.

He also called for the ouster of Khan's new government and urged army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Qamar Bajwa.

Hafiz Sae, an influential Islamist whom the U.S. accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday afternoon prayers.

Protesters resorted to arson and vandalism in many parts of the country and damaged private and public property in various incidents.

The pope told Bibi's daughter: "I think often of your mother and I pray for her".

"Blasphemy is a serious offence 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", Judge Asif Saeed Khan Khosa added.

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There was no official word on the plan to clear the mobs but security sources said that all options were being considered.