The Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s highest court has upheld the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was put on death row for eight years after being convicted of violating the nation’s blasphemy laws.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Bibi will not be retried after being found not guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a few Muslim colleagues.
“We are not hearing the case again, the lawyer was unable to point out a single error in the judgment,” stated Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, as reported by CNN.
“We have to look at the value of the statements by witnesses, how can we hang someone on a false witness statement.”
Rimmel Mohydin of Amnesty International said in a statement released Tuesday that with the ruling, Bibi “must finally get her freedom and an end to her ordeal.”
“After nine years behind bars for a crime she didn’t commit, it is difficult to see this long overdue verdict as justice. But she should now be free to reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice,” stated Mohydin.
“This shameful delay in enforcing Asia Bibi’s rights only reinforces the need for the Pakistani government to repeal the blasphemy laws as soon as possible, as well as other laws that discriminate against religious minorities and put their lives in danger.”
In 2010, Bibi was sentenced to death after being found guilty of blasphemy against the Islamic faith, stemming from an incident with field workers in 2009 who claimed that she insulted Muhammad.
Bibi denied the charge and appealed the decision, but remained in prison for years despite international pressure and the campaigns of human rights groups.
Last October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Bibi of wrongdoing, concluding that “the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.”
Violent protests took place in response to the news of Bibi’s acquittal, with many in the Islamic country seeking to murder her once she is freed. Not allowed to leave the country after a petition was submitted against her acquittal, Bibi has been living in hiding. Tuesday's decision allows her to finally leave.
Qari Muhammad Salam, an Islamic cleric based in the same village as Bibi, said in a statement last year that he disagreed with the Supreme Court decision and believed that Bibi “deserves the death sentence according to the law.”
“If you start forgiving people on this issue, then it will become routine that people will commit blasphemy and just ask for forgiveness,” stated Salam.
“We wish that if she had not uttered such remarks, and she had been living like before it would have been peaceful. But if someone says this, then there's no compromise on the dignity of the prophet [Muhammad]. Being Muslim, we believe that these are testing times and we should be ready for them.”
Some countries, including Canada, have offered asylum to Bibi. Many in the United States, among them former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, have called on President Donald Trump to grant Bibi and her family asylum.
“President Trump and his administration have been stalwart and vocal champions for religious freedom across the globe. And in Asia Bibi’s case, urgent action is needed RIGHT NOW,” wrote Huckabee last December.