Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has death penalty conviction overturned

Bibi has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy against Islam

ISLAMABAD-Pakistan's top court on October 31, acquitted a Christian woman who was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in 2010, a landmark ruling that sparked protests by hard-line Islamists and raised fears of violence.

Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in deeply conservative Muslim Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammed can provoke death at the hands of vigilantes - and the acquittal immediately sparked large protests from hardliners.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar overturned the conviction by the Lahore High Court that had sentenced Asia Bibi, a mother of four, to death in 2010.

It has been ordered that Ms Bibi should be released if she has not committed any other crime. The supreme court was due to hear Bibi's appeal in 2016, but delayed the trial after one of the judges recused himself.

After knowing about the landmark verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, 53-year-old Asia Noreen Bibi was struck by disbelief.

The allegations against Ms Bibi date back to 2009, when she was working in a field and was asked to fetch water.

However, on 7 October, Ashiq Masih, Bibi's husband, said his wife was "spiritually strong" and "ready and willing to die for Christ", adding that she will "never convert to Islam".

Speaking to Premier from Islamabad, Mehwish Bhatti from the British Pakistani Christian Association said: "There are so many blasphemy victims - Christian victims - who are still in prison and are on death sentence like Asia Bibi".

Bibi says she was falsely accused and is very respectful of Muslims and Mohammed. She was convicted and sentenced to death.

The decision is expected to come down overnight tonight and will determine if this Christian mom of five is set free or hanged for her Christian faith.

It has been a case of high-tension from the outset, with Salman Taseer, a Punjabi governor who supported Ms Bibi, gunned down in broad daylight by his bodyguard in Islamabad in 2011.

She denied charges but she was arrested and tried and a Sheikhupura judge sentenced her to death in November 2010.

Protesters from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party gathered at various areas of the city in protest as the apex court earlier announced its decision.

"It is great news for Pakistan and rest of the world", Bibi's lawyer Saiful Mulook told Reuters.

It is a case which has drawn worldwide attention to Pakistan's blasphemy laws and divided the nation.

Ms Asia Bibi's case drew the attention of global rights groups and swiftly became the most high-profile in the country.

But critics say the laws have often been used to get revenge after personal disputes, and that convictions are based on thin evidence.

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