A Pakistani Christian woman freed from death row last year will not be retried, the country’s Supreme Court said Tuesday, as judges rejected a petition to review their previous decision.
Asia Bibi, a mother of five from Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to hang after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during an argument a year earlier with Muslim colleagues.
The workers had refused to drink from a bucket of water Bibi had touched because she was not Muslim. At the time, Bibi said the case was a matter of women who didn’t like her “taking revenge.”
Last year, she won her appeal against the conviction and death sentence.
In its ruling in October, the Supreme Court court quoted Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in its ruling, saying Bibi appeared to have been “more sinned against than sinning.”
“Even if there was some grain of truth in the allegations leveled in this case against the appellant still the glaring contradictions in the evidence of the prosecution highlighted above clearly show that the truth in this case had been mixed with a lot which was untrue,” the ruling said.
Judges were equally dismissive of the case against Bibi this week, saying the crime had not been established and listing inconsistencies in witness testimonies.
“We are not hearing the case again, the lawyer was unable to point out a single error in the judgment,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said of the petition to review last year’s ruling.
“We have to look at the value of the statements by witnesses, how can we hang someone on a false witness statement.”
The petition to review was not able to pinpoint any mistake in the verdict acquitting Bibi, the court said.
Bibi is now expected to leave Pakistan, seeking asylum in another country as supporters warn she remains at risk of violence from extremist groups.
Drawn out case
Her acquittal in October prompted violent protests orchestrated by the Islamist movement Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), which were later subdued through a deal reached between the Pakistani government and the group – with the government agreeing not to oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgment.
Even after her sentence was commuted, she was forced to remain in the same jail due to concerns over her safety. She has since been shuttled around the country from safe house to safe house to protect her from reprisals.
Under Pakistan’s penal code, the offense of blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Widely criticized by international human rights groups, the law has been used disproportionately against minority religious groups in the country and to go after journalists critical of the Pakistani religious establishment.
Bibi’s case attracted widespread outrage and support from Christians worldwide.
When her family met with Pope Francis in February at the Vatican, the Pontiff reportedly described Bibi as a “martyr,” according to Alessandro Mondeduro, president of the charity Aid to the Church in Need. Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had also called for Bibi’s release.
In her 2012 book, “Get Me Out of Here,” Bibi included a letter to her family urging them not to “lose courage or faith in Jesus Christ.”
CNN’s James Griffiths and Sophia Saifi contributed reporting.