Court dismisses challenge to Asia Bibi blasphemy acquittal

Islamabad, Pakistan, Jan 29, 2019 / 05:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A petition to overturn last year’s acquittal of blasphemy charges against Catholic wife and mother Asia Bibi was dismissed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court Tuesday.

The challenge was dismissed Jan. 29 by a three-member Supreme Court panel led by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Bibi, who has been in hiding since shortly following the initial verdict overturning her death sentence late last October, is expected to leave Pakistan if granted asylum abroad, the BBC reports.

The mother-of-five had spent eight years on death row in Pakistan on blasphemy charges after she was accused of making disparaging remarks about the Islamic prophet Muhammad after an argument stemming from a cup of water.

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010, and was sentenced to death by hanging. She immediately appealed. The Lahore High Court upheld conviction in 2014, which she then appealed to the country’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal in 2015.

Her full acquittal by the Supreme Court Oct. 31, 2018, sparked renewed protests by Islamic hardliners in the country, who had called for her execution since her initial conviction.

Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad is preparing for the possibility of further protests by Islamist groups following Tuesday’s dismissal, despite having cracked down at the end of last year with the arrests of a number of those responsible for the unrest.

The country’s blasphemy laws impose strict punishment on those who desecrate the Quran or who defame or insult Muhammad. Pakistan’s state religion is Islam, and around 97 percent of the population is Muslim.

Although the government has never executed a person under the blasphemy law, accusations alone have inspired mob and vigilante violence.

Since her arrest, Bibi has garnered international support from numerous world leaders calling for her immediate release, including Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. In 2015, Pope Francis met with her daughter and offered prayers.

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