Pakistan's top court upholds acquittal of Christian woman Asia Bibi on capital blasphemy charges

Police stand guard outside Pakistan's Supreme Court
(Image credit: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of Pakistan's Supreme Court upheld the court's decision last year to acquit a Christian woman of blasphemy charges, allowing her to leave the country. The woman, Asia Bibi, was convicted of insulting Islam's Prophet Mohammad under Pakistan's strict blasphemy law in 2010, and she spent eight years on death row. After the Supreme Court's decision to acquit in October, radical Islamic clerics aligned with the Tehreek-e-Labaik party filed a petition to overturn the acquittal and send her back to death row.

"Based on merit, this petition is dismissed," Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in court. He criticized the petitioners, saying Bibi's accusers are guilty of perjury and should probably be jailed for life. "The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow," Khosa added. Bibil's lawyer, Saiful Malook, said the court "insisted on very strict proofs of blasphemy" and found none. Bibi has been living under guard in a secret location since her acquittal, and now she is expected to leave the country, possibly to join her daughters in Canada. Security was high in Islamabad ahead of the verdict.

Pakistan's blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty for insulting Mohammed, is popular in the country but has been used as a pretext for whipping up vengeful mobs. A provincial governor who stood up for Bibi and a government minister who questioned the blasphemy law were shot and killed, and ate least 65 people are reported to have been killed under the law since 1990, most of them minority Shiite Muslims. Bibi was the first woman sentenced to death under the law.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.