Pakistan SC upholds Aasia Bibi’s blasphemy acquittal

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Islamabad, Jan 29 (IANS) Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a review petition challenging its decision to acquit Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in a blasphemy case.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa tossed out the plea against Bibi’s October acquittal that had sparked three-day mass protests led by the hardline Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Geo News reported.

“Based on merit, this review petition is dismissed… You could not point out (even) a single mistake in the Supreme Court’s verdict,” Justice Khosa told the petitioner’s lawyer.

Bibi, a mother of five, spent eight years on death row in a prison in Multan before she was acquitted last year. She was accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad in 2009 and a court sentenced her to death in 2010.

The petition had been filed by cleric Qari Muhammad Saalam through his lawyer Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, who presented his arguments before the bench and demanded that a larger bench comprising Islamic scholars be constituted to hear the petition.

The petition, according to the report, stated that Bibi confessed to her crimes during investigation and that a delay in lodging the First Information Request did not imply that the defendant was not guilty of the crime.

It had also sought to put her name on the Exit Control List till a final decision on the review petition was made.

Meanwhile, the TLP had on Monday night rejected the top court bench formed to hear the review petition and threatened a protest movement if Bibi was given “judicial relief”.

The hardline Islamist party had called off its protests last year after reaching an agreement with the government, the foremost condition of which was the placement of Bibi’s name on the Exit Control List.

The government, however, had only agreed to “initiate the legal process” to place her name on the list, while also agreeing that it would not oppose any review petitions being filed against the apex court’s judgment.

The rejection of the petition on Tuesday lifted the last legal hurdle in the years-long blasphemy case and potentially paved the way for Bibi to leave the country.



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