By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani court has acquitted a Christian woman who spent nearly six months in prison with her infant son in the country’s Punjab province on “a false charge of blasphemy”, her defense team told BosNewsLife.
The presiding judge of the court in the district of Gujranwala, Mohammad Asghar Khan, on Wednesday August 11 dropped charges against Rubina Bibi who had been accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed by a local Muslim shopkeeper following a dispute over butter she had bought and tried to return, said the Center Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) which defended her.
“Bibi was detained in March and would have faced the mandatory death penalty if convicted under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The 25-year-old mother of three spent almost six months in Gujranwala jail with her one and a half year old son, Joshua, but was released following the judge’s ruling,” CLAAS added in a statement to BosNewsLife Asia Service.
Bibi’s accuser had reportedly offered to settle the matter out of court if she converted to Islam.
The case was heard under strict security, following last month’s attack and murder of Christian pastors Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel as they left a court in the Punjab city of Faisalabad where they, too, were answering blasphemy charges, CLAAS said.
Bibi was represented by CLAAS-Pakistan’s lawyer Tahir Bashir Gul, and Director of CLAAS-Pakistan Joseph Francis, who has been known for his public protests against controversial blasphemy laws in the predominantly Islamic nation.
“The victory has been possible because of the prayers of our supporters throughout the world and I am feeling a bit relieved as defending someone in a blasphemy case is equally dangerous for us and several times in the past we have been threatened and even attacked for representing the victims of blasphemy law,” Francis said in published remarks.
CLAAS said it has been providing legal aid for Bibi since her arrest, and supporting her family throughout the ordeal. She was denied bail several times and Islamic militant groups reportedly tried to influence the outcome of the case against her.
Bibi and her family, including her husband and two other children, have been moved to an unknown location for their safety, CLAAS added.
“I am very happy as Rubina is only 25 years old and even her one and half year old son was imprisoned with her, which was very unfair,” said Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK.
“We are grateful to everybody who has been praying for Rubina’s release. Rubina has been cleared of blasphemy charges in a very short period of time and we all know that normally these cases take years and years to be settled,” Saeed told BosNewsLife.
CLAAS said the outcome of the case marks the second time that it successfully settled a blasphemy law case in the town of Alipur Chattah, which is part of the district Gujranwala, “having secured justice for Hussain Masih and his son Isaac, nearly a decade ago.”
CLAAS is among several rights groups that campaigns for Pakistan’s blasphemy laws to be amended and ultimately repealed. Rights activists and churches claim the legislation is often used to settle “personal grudges” against Christians and other religious minorities.