ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Aasia Bibi – a Christian woman accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death – on Wednesday and set aside an earlier judgment passed by a lower court.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, heading the three-member bench comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, read the verdict and announced the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict was set aside and directed authorities to release Aasia Bibi from prison.
“The judgement of the high court and that of the trial court is reversed.”
The apex court added that Bibi is to be set free if she is not wanted in any other case.
Security was increased across the federal capital as the apex court announced the verdict in the case.
The top court had reserved verdict on the accused plea against the conviction on October 8. The federal police had deployed a heavy contingent of police officials and secured entry points of the red zone with containers.
The 51-year-old Christian woman was on the death row since November 2010 after she was convicted on charges of committing blasphemy during an argument with two Muslim women in Sheikhupura.
Her case gained prominence after then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer pleaded for a retrial of her case and was subsequently shot dead by one of his guards, Mumtaz Qadri, in January 2011.
Bibi challenged the verdict in October 2014, however, the LHC upheld the death sentence. The apex court had stayed the execution in July 2015.
After a three-year hiatus, a three-judge special bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, heard the appeal.
The hearing lasted nearly two hours and 45 minutes, during which both the prosecution and defence presented their points of view over the conviction.
Members of civil society, including veteran politician Farhatullah Babar, were in attendance during the proceeding. Unlike previous hearings, a few religious clerics were present inside and outside the courtroom.
The bench restrained the media from discussing, publishing or airing any comment about the proceedings till the announcement of the judgment. During the hearing, the bench pointed out several discrepancies in the statements of the prosecution and the witnesses.