Pakistan: Asia Bibi freedom 'a great relief', but blasphemy laws must be repealed

Responding to reports that Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman freed from death row last year, has now left Pakistan and arrived in Canada, Omar Waraich, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director, said:

“If the news is true, it’s a great relief that Asia Bibi and her family are safe. She should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone faced the death penalty.

“That she then had to endure repeated threats to her life, even after being acquitted, only compounds the injustice. This case illustrates the dangers of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and the urgent need to repeal them.”

Sentenced to death

Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. After an eight-year ordeal, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her of all charges and released her in October last year.

However, Pakistan’s government then insisted the Supreme Court hear a “review petition” in her case. On 29 January 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed the review petition and upheld its acquittal. Asia Bibi received repeated death threats from religious extremists in Pakistan, following the Supreme Court’s order.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are broad, vague and coercive. They have disproportionately targeted religious minorities, including in false cases brought forward to pursue personal vendettas.

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