CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

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Asia Bibi blasphemy acquittal upheld

ISLAMABAD (CNS): On January 29, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld its acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman who had been previously sentenced to hang for blasphemy. Tehreek-e-Labbaaik, an extremist group, had challenged the acquittal (Sunday Examiner, February 3).
 
The  mother of five is now free to leave Pakistan and is expected to join her family in Canada where they were granted asylum, the Associated Press reported.
 
The chief justice, Asif Saeed Khosa, stood by the court’s 31 October 2018 verdict, which was critical of the conflicting testimony against Bibi.
 
“You think we give the death sentence to someone on the basis of false evidence?” he said according to media reports. “Such lies were told that one statement doesn’t match with another.”
 
Protests erupted after the original acquittal (Sunday Examiner, 11 November 2018), and the BBC reported that, after the January 29 decision, Pakistan’s electronic media were downplaying the story “in a concerted move to forestall public unrest.”
 
Bibi’s ordeal of began in June 2009 when the one time farm worker was accused of insulting Muhammad, the founder of Islam, after Muslim co-workers objected to her drinking from a common water supply because she is a Christian.
 
Bibi was rescued from a mob by police, only to be sentenced to death in 2010 for violating Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which makes insulting Muhammad a capital offense.
 
No one has been executed under the law so far, but Christians who are falsely accused often are lynched or spend many years in prison.

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