Pakistan Supreme Court Upholds Own Decision To Free Asia Bibi

Pakistan's Supreme Court has turned down a challenge to the acquittal of a Christian woman on blasphemy charges.

The top court upheld its decision to overturn Asia Bibi's conviction and death sentence,

She was originally convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours, and spent eight years on death row.

She has always maintained her innocence in a case that has polarised Pakistan.

The Supreme Court's quashing of her sentence last October led to violent protests by religious hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws, while more liberal sections of society urged her release.

Hardliners had petitioned to overturn this ruling.

"Based on merit, this petition is dismissed," Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in court on Tuesday.

Ms Bibi – also known as Asia Noreen – was unable to leave Pakistan while an appeal request was pending.

"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.

Asia Bibi is being kept by authorities at a secret location in Islamabad.

The ruling clears the way for her to leave Pakistan, though it is not clear when that will happen and where she will go. She has been offered asylum by a number of countries, and some unconfirmed reports say several members of her family may already be abroad, according to a BBC correspondent.

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