Pakistan’s top court Tuesday upheld the acquittal of a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row on blasphemy charges, according to The Associated Press.
The decision will allow Aasia Bibi leave the country and join her daughters in Canada, where they have been granted asylum.
“I am really grateful to everybody. Now after nine years it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters,” one of Bibi’s friends quoted her as saying.
Bibi, who is Roman Catholic, was charged with blasphemy in 2010 after she fought with two Muslim farm workers who were refusing to drink out of the same container as a Christian. A mob later accused her of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, which eyewitnesses have disputed and Bibi denies.
Pakistan’s three-judge Supreme Court ruled that it could not find “very strict proofs of blasphemy,” the AP reported.
The case has whipped up religious tensions in the country. A provincial governor who defended Bibi and a government minority minister who questioned the blasphemy law were both apparently assassinated, according to the AP. Thousands of people took to the streets after Bibi’s initial acquittal in October, calling for her to be punished.
Pakistan’s Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said Bibi’s accusers were guilty of perjury and would have been sentenced to jail for life had the case not been so sensitive.
“The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow,” Khosa said, according to the AP.
Still, the radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik party slammed the court’s latest ruling as “cruel and unjust” and called for its followers to protest the acquittal.
Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah told the AP that though she was pleased with the ruling, she doubted it would have a deterrent effect on people making false claims of blasphemy in the future given the “political mileage" of such claims.