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Asia Bibi free to leave Pakistan after high court dismisses last blasphemy charge

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Asia Bibi free to leave Pakistan after high court dismisses last blasphemy charge
Supporters of Pakistani Islamic political party Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam-F protest a decision by Pakistan's high court to dismiss a blasphemy case against a woman accused of disparaging the Muslim prophet Muhammad, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on November 2. The court again upheld its decision Tuesday. Photo by Bilawal Arbab/EPA-EFE

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The Pakistani Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the acquittal of a Christian woman who'd been accused of blasphemy, meaning she's free to leave the country for the first time in nine years.

The three-court panel threw out a complaint against Asia Bibi, who still faces death threats for statements she made about the Islamic Prophet Mohammed 10 years ago.

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The petition argued that Bibi confessed to her crimes during the original investigation, but {link:the judges disagreed: "https://www.geo.tv/latest/226579-sc-rejects-review-petition-against-asia-bibi-acquittal" target="_blank"] Tuesday.

"Based on merit, this review petition is dismissed," Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in the ruling. "You could not point [even] a single mistake in the Supreme Court's verdict."

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Bibi's travel ban, imposed after pressure from protesters, was lifted with the ruling.

The far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) Party threatened to protest if Bibi was set free.

Khosa said Bibi's accusers are guilty of perjury and would have been jailed if the case wasn't so sensitive.

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"The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow," he said.

Bibi's attorney, Saiful Malook, called the decision a victory for Pakistan's constitution and the rule of law.

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Bibi was acquitted of all charges in October by the Pakistan Supreme Court, but protesters demonstrated and pressured the high court to hear the case again.

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Amnesty International called for Pakistan to protect religious minorities and the judges who made the controversial decision. The country's blasphemy laws are vague and coercive and can persecute people with little or no evidence, the organization said.

"Asia Bibi must finally get her freedom and an end to her ordeal," the group's south Asia campaigner Rimmel Mohydin said. "After nine years behind bars for a crime she didn't commit, it is difficult to see this long overdue verdict as justice. But she should now be free to reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice."

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