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Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has overturned the sentence of death



Asia Bibi, a mother of five children from Punjab Province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to prison after being accused of verbally abusing the Prophet Muhammad's name during a dispute with Muslim colleagues last year.

The workers had refused to drink from a bucket of water Asia Bibi had touched because she was not Muslim. At that time, Asia Bibi said the case was a matter of women who did not like "taking revenge".

She won her appeal against the conviction and the subsequent death sentence on Wednesday.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization dedicated to Christian minorities, said in a statement that "we are breathing today."

"These charges stemmed from their Christian identity and false accusations against them," he said. "We hope that Pakistan will now take additional steps to offer religious freedom and fundamental human rights throughout the country."

Controversial Law

Under the Pakistani Criminal Code, the offense of blasphemy is threatened with death or punishment for life imprisonment. The law, widely criticized by international human rights groups, has been disproportionately used against religious minority groups in the country and against journalists who criticize the Pakistani religious establishment.

Her case was spread and supported by Christians around the world and condemned by conservative Islamist groups in Pakistan who demanded the death penalty and questioned the protests if they were liberated by the Islamists.

Islamist movement Tehreek-e Labbaik had previously sworn to take to the streets if Bibi were released.

The case was extremely divided in Pakistani society. He shared liberals and conservatives and even scared many supporters to campaign for Asia Bibi. [201

1] In 2011, Senior Politician Salman Taseer was shot dead by his own bodyguard for expressing support for Asia Bibi and condemning the country's severe blasphemy laws. His killer, Mumtaz Qadri, immediately surrendered to the police and was executed. He became a martyr to many hardened Islamists.

At its funeral in 2016, thousands gathered in the northern town of Rawalpindi when the Pakistani media was beaten to prevent unrest. Leaders of prominent Islamist political parties attended the funeral, while supporters of Qadri wore signs of his "bravery."

Qadri's grave in the capital of Islamabad has since become a shrine to those supporting the death sentence of Asia Bibi.

Polarization case

Amnesty International researcher Rabia Mehmood said one of the reasons why the Asia Bibi case has become so polarizing and controversial is the failure of the Pakistani government to "take effective measures to curb In the campaign of hatred and violence that they believe have been instigated by certain groups in the country, the state has shown immense tolerance for the narratives of hatred. "

Previously, she had highlighted a tweet from a media organization affiliated with Tehreek-e Labbaik, which led to violent protests against blasphemy last year and warned the court to "think carefully before making a decision".

In May this year, Pakistani Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was shot and injured in an incident involving police sources linked to the 2017 demonstrations.

"We can only hope that (the case of Asia Bibi) will turn into a watershed when it comes to blasphemy laws in Pakistan," Mehmood said.

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A verdict in favor of Asia Bibi sends "a message of hope" and will be a step to combat human rights abuses, religiously motivated discrimination and violence against religious minorities and people Even Muslims who are accused of blasphemy. "

CNN recognizes that at least two Western countries have offered asylum for asylum Bibi after their release, a move that is likely to be greeted by mass protests by Islamist groups that could become violent.

It will also be an important test for the new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who during his successful election campaign courted the country's religious rights and voted in favor of blasphemy laws.
Khan should "stand against the intimidation of Tehreek-e-Labbaik, whose leaders have demanded of Khan he claimed his promise to make Pakistan an "Islamic state," Pakistani journalist Rafia Zakaria wrote for CNN last month.

"Instead of spurning the international community, whom Islamists consider Pakistan's influence to be a complete theocracy, Khan could emphasize the need to embrace and work with her, in other words, Khan could stand up for the party Decide innocent woman instead of rabid and bloodthirsty extremists. "

Religious Battle

Outside of Pakistan, the fall of Asia Bibi has become a call for many Christians, especially Catholics.

The Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) conducted a prayer for Asia Bibi's release last week in the United Kingdom at a ceremony with her husband Ashiq Masih and daughter Eisham Ashiq.

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"We have now prayed for ten years for Sister Asia, and I am confident that our prayers will be answered, and the verdict will go in favor of Asia, her family, and the entire Pakistani Christian community, "said Father Emmanuel Yousaf in a statement by the group.
The family met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in February, during which Catholic leader Asia Bibi is reportedly labeled a "martyr", says ACN President Alessandro Mondeduro.
Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict, previously demanded the release of Asia Bibi.

In her 2012 book, "Get Me Out of Here," Asia Bibi wrote a letter to her family requesting "not to lose heart and faith in Jesus Christ."

Sophia Saifi reports from Pakistan. James Griffiths reported from Hong Kong.


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