Thursday, November 01, 2018

Pakistan's Supreme Court Reverses Blasphemy Conviction of Asia Bibi

In a widely followed case, the Pakistan Supreme Court yesterday reversed the blasphemy conviction of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly uttering derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad. The statements were allegedly made after Bibi got into an argument with two Muslim women while picking berries in a field.  The Muslim women refused to accept water from Bibi because she was Christian. In Bibi v. The State, (Pak. Sup. Ct., Oct 31, 2018), a 3-judge panel concluded (in a 34-page opinion) that the charges against Bibi had not been adequately proven, since the lower courts relied on contradictory testimony and the trial court relied on a confession that was given under pressure.  Justice Nisar's majority opinion alluded to the misuse of blasphemy prosecutions in Pakistan:
[N]o one could be allowed to defy the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم ) and be left unpunished, but there is another aspect of the matter; sometimes, to fulfill nefarious designs the law is misused by individuals leveling false allegations of blasphemy. Stately, since 1990, 62 people have been murdered as a result of blasphemy allegations, even before their trial could be conducted in accordance with law.
Judge Khosa filed a 21-page concurring opinion, in which he observed:
It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’ but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Leare, “more sinned against than sinning”.
The Guardian reports on the decision and reactions to it:
By the afternoon, thousands of club-wielding demonstrators had blocked highways, burned tyres and pelted police with stones in major cities including Islamabad and Karachi.