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“We don’t give the death penalty on false evidence” – Court upholds Asia Bibi acquittal

Posted on: January 29, 2019 12:04 PM
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan, today as judges heard an appeal against their decision to acquit Asia Bibi.
Photo Credit: Saiyna Bashir / Reuters

An attempt by Islamic extremists to overturn the acquittal of Asia Bibi, who had been detained for eight years on death row accused of blasphemy, has been rejected by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Asia Bibi was finally cleared in October, after the court ruled that the case against her was based on “conflicts” and “contradictions”. Riots took place in many regions in Pakistan following her acquittal, which ended only after hardline group Tehreek-e Labaik were given permission to issues a fresh appeal to the Supreme Court.

“On merit, this petition is dismissed,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in court today (Tuesday). He was critical of the petitioners, and said that they had failed to indicate any mistake in the acquittal judgment. “You think we give the death sentence to someone on the basis of false evidence?”, he said. “Such lies were told that one statement doesn’t match with another.

“Please point out any error in our judgement and we’re ready to rectify it. . . You start declaring someone deserves to be killed just on the basis of false evidence.”

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Asia Bibi’s original conviction stemmed from an incident in 2010 when she drank water from a glass which some co-workers said was reserved for Muslims. They claimed that by doing so, she had made the glass unclean. She was lynched and taken to a public meeting where, it was said, she made statements considered blasphemous. But the person who lodged the complaint was not at the meeting; and two witnesses who were did not give evidence at her trial.

As part of the deal to end the riots, Pakistan’s government placed Asia Bibi on a “do not travel” list, preventing her from leaving the country. It is now thought that she will be free to join other members of her family in Canada, a country which has offered asylum to Asia Bibi.