A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence given to Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, accused of blasphemy. Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a verbal fight with her neighbours. Although the woman always maintained her innocence, she had to spend most of the past nine years in solitary confinement.

The landmark ruling shortly ignited violent protests by people who support blasphemy laws strongly. People are holding protests against the verdict in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan. Clashes with police have been also reported for the same.

What was Asia Bibi accused of?

The incident dates back to 2009 when Asia Bibi, whose full name is Asia Noreen, engaged in an argument with some neighbours. Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was awarded death sentence in 2010 for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman in her village.

The women were harvesting fruit when an argument broke out over a bucket of water. The women said that because Bibi had used a cup to drink water, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean.

Prosecutors had alleged during trial that the women told Asia Bibi she should convert to Islam and that is what led to Bibi making offensive comments in response. She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers claimed she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.  The High Court in Punjab Province confirmed Bibi’s death sentence in October 2015.

The case will not only be remembered for the injustice it did to Bibi, but also the two lives that were lost in support for Bibi’s cause. Shortly after Bibi’s conviction, a prominent politician, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, was murdered for speaking out in her support. He had called for the blasphemy laws to be reformed. Also, politician Shahbaz Bhatti, who stood by Asia Bibi and all minorities, lost his life in the process.

Bibi’s case has been a contentious issue for Islamist hardliners, liberals and the Christian community. Islamist hardliners have been lobbying for her execution. Her four daughters and husband had received multiple death threats and were in hiding for a long period.

Journalist Naila Inayat tweeted Asia Bibi’s recorded statement while sharing the judgment news as well.

Picture Credit: The Guardian

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.