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Asia Bibi: free, free indeed

Calls to put Asia Bibi back on death row rejected by Pakistan's supreme court

Inter-denominational Christian ministry Release International has welcomed news that Pakistan’s supreme court has upheld its decision to acquit Asia Bibi and has called for a review of other cases of blasphemy.

The court has today rebuffed a challenge to the ruling it made in October last year to lift the death sentence handed down to the Christian farm worker on the back of alleged claims she spoke against the founder of Islam, Muhammad. Bibi, who has been held at a secret location since her sentence was overturned, is now able to leave the country after almost a decade on death row, and is expected to do so. 

While this isn’t good news for the extreme Islamist party that petitioned the court to reverse its decision, Christian and human rights campaigners, who have implored Western countries to offer sanctuary to Bibi and her family, including her daughter Eisham Ashiq (pictured), are very pleased. 

Release International CEO Paul Robinson said: We are delighted that the supreme court has stood firm over its principled and courageous decision to throw out the false blasphemy charges against Asia Bibi. Anything else would have been giving in to extremism and handing Pakistan over to mob rule.

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The government of Pakistan must now follow the lead of its supreme court and do the right thing: guarantee Asia Bibi’s safety, safeguard the Christian minority against mob reprisals by stepping up security against any suggestion of rioting and violence, and urgently review the case against every other prisoner who has been accused and jailed for blasphemy.”

According to Release International’s partners in Pakistan, there are 218 other Christians who still face blasphemy charges – a disproportionate number of those accused. And when they are accused, individuals, families and entire communities face violence at the hands of vigilantes.

Robinson added: In the Asia Bibi case, the supreme court revealed what Release has been saying for years, that accusations of blasphemy can be malicious and built on lies, simply to settle scores. These blasphemy cases – and the blasphemy law itself – must now come under review.”

This long overdue victory for Bibi, and Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith, has also been welcomed by anti-persecution charity Open Doors, whose 2019 World Watch List revealed that Pakistan is ranked fifth out of the top 50 countries where people are most at risk for following Jesus.

Head of advocacy at Open Doors, Zoe Smith, said: We’re absolutely thrilled with today’s ruling by Pakistan’s supreme court to uphold Asia Bibi’s acquittal. We are overjoyed that justice has prevailed and are praying that this heralds a new era of equal rights for Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.” 

The Evangelical Alliance is pleased to partner with Release International, Open Doors UK and Christian Solidarity Worldwide as the Religious Liberty Commission. Find out more about our commitment to speaking up for religious freedom around the world.

The photo used in this article is of Asia Bibi’s daughter, Eisham Ashiq, who thanked everybody for their prayers and expressed her gratitude to the judges and the Pakistani justice system from a safe house in Pakistan after the ruling in October 2018. (It was obtained from image hosting service Flickr.)

About the author

Naomi joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2018 as editorial content manager. Positions with publishers and within the marketing and communications faculty of a higher education institution, plus stints as a reporter, have enabled the media and cultural studies graduate, who has an NCTJ diploma in newspaper journalism, to hone the necessary skills and qualities to serve members well.

See more from Naomi Osinnowo

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