A Pakistani court has overturned a death sentence for a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, a case that has polarized the nation.
Asia Bibi was sentenced in 201
She always kept her innocence but spent most of the last eight years in solitary confinement.
The landmark decision has already triggered protests from hardliners who advocate strong blasphemy laws.
There was a Strong Police Presence At the Supreme Court in Islamabad, many violent outbreaks were feared.
Supreme Judge Saqib Nisar read the verdict and said that she was free if she was not wanted in any other case.
- Why are Pakistan Christians assaulted
- What are the blasphemy laws in Pakistan?
Whom has Asia Bibi been accused?
The trial is based on an argument that Asia Bibi, whose full name is Asia Noreen, had a group of women in June 2009.
They harvested fruit in Sheikhupura, near Lahore, as a dispute a bucket of water broke out. The women said that because they had drunk from a cup, they could no longer use it because their faith had made it impure.
The woman claimed that Asia Bibi should convert to Islam in the subsequent series, and that she made three insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.
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Later, she was beaten up at her home, with her prosecutors saying that she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.
Asia Bibi admitted to exchanging "hot words" with her neighbors, but always maintained that she had said nothing blasphemous and never confessed.
Her lawyers said the prosecutor's case was full of contradictions.
Why is this case so divided?
Islam is the national religion of Pakistan and underpins its legal system. Public support for the stringent blasphemy laws is strong.
Hardline politicians have often supported severe penalties, in part to bolster their support base.
Critics say, however, that the laws were often used to avenge personal arguments, and that beliefs are based on thin evidence.
Most of those convicted are Muslims, but many have been convicted since the 1990s.
No one was ever executed, but some of the accused persons were lynched or murdered.
Asia Bibi's case became even more popular following the assassination of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province. He had called for her pardon to overtake the blasphemy laws.
In early 2011, he was shot in broad daylight by his guard Mumtaz Qadri, a fan of strict blasphemy laws. Qadri was sentenced to death but remains a hero to many.
Internationally, Asia Bibi's conviction has been widely condemned as a violation of human rights.
What happens now?
There are fears that there could be a violent reaction to her acquittal.
As with their previous trials and the Islamabad court, numerous crowds gathered to demand their conviction be confirmed.
She was offered asylum by several countries and should leave the country in case of an acquittal.
Her daughter, Eisham Ashiq, had previously told the AFP news agency that if she were released, "I'll hug her and cry when I say it, and I'll thank God for releasing her."
But the family said they feared for their safety and would probably have to leave Pakistan.