Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam and ordered her freed, a ruling that set off protests by hardline Islamists but was welcomed by human rights advocates.
Bibi appeared to be in state of disbelief after hearing that Pakistan's Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had quashed her conviction almost eight years after she was first sentenced to death.
Justice Nisar while reading out the verdict said, "The appeal is allowed". Consequently, the conviction as also the sentence of death awarded to the appellant is set aside and she is acquitted of the charge.
Reading out the verdict on Wednesday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said: "The judgement of the high court and that of the trial court is reversed". A three-member bench headed by the top judge and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel directed authorities to release Aasia Bibi from prison.
Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi in an undated photo handed out by family in 2010. She had moved the Supreme Court against her conviction.
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Muslim women she was labouring with allegedly objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.
Demonstrations broke out in major cities across the country following the verdict, with approximately a thousand club-wielding demonstrators blocking Islamabad's main highway as several roads in the port city of Karachi were barricaded by protesters sparking chaotic traffic jams. Dozens have been killed following blasphemy claims, sometimes by mobs of men. The law does not clearly define blasphemy and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence.
It has been a case of high-tension from the outset, with Salman Taseer, a Punjabi governor who supported Ms Bibi, gunned down in broad daylight by his bodyguard in Islamabad in 2011.
Mrs Bibi was arrested in 2009 following a row with Muslim women who accused her of making a water cup unclean for them because she had used it. A previous appeal hearing was adjourned in 2016 on a legal technicality.
Ms Bibi's representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbours and her accusers had contradicted themselves. Bibi's case was closely followed internationally amid concern for Pakistan's religious minorities, who have frequently come under attack by extremists in recent years.
Mumtaz Qadri was hanged for the killing but has been hailed a martyr by hardliners.