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Pakistan’s Supreme Court rejects challenge to Asia Bibi acquittal in blasphemy case

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Pakistan’s Supreme Court rejected Tuesday a challenge against its decision to acquit Asia Bibi, lifting the last legal hurdle in the years-long blasphemy case and potentially paving the way for the Christian mother to leave the country.

“Based on merit, this review petition is dismissed,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa told a hearing at Pakistan’s highest court, which overturned Ms. Bibi’s death sentence for blasphemy last year.

The ruling ignited immediate calls from activists to allow her to leave the country, where she remains a prime target with the government refusing to reveal her whereabouts and Islamist extremists calling for her murder.

Speculation is rampant that she will seek asylum in a European or North American country, and unconfirmed Pakistani reports claim her children have already fled to Canada.

“She should now be free to reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

Ms. Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 in what swiftly became Pakistan’s most infamous blasphemy case.

The Supreme Court overturned her conviction last year, but she remains in protective custody as a prime target in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where blasphemy is a hugely sensitive charge.

Ms. Bibi’s acquittal ignited days of violent demonstrations, with enraged conservative Islamists calling for her beheading.

The government has since launched a crackdown on the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, the Islamist group driving the protests. Its chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has been under detention for weeks.

However authorities also struck a deal to end the violence, which included allowing the petition seeking an appeal against the Supreme Court’s judgment.

Source: The Hindu

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