Islamic religious leaders in Pakistan have defended the court's decision to free Asia Bibi.
Mufti Akeel Pirzada, President of the 'Council of the Ulema for Peace' in Pakistan, which is committed to building inter-religious harmony in the country, said: "No one tolerates a blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and we are ready to sacrifice our lives for him. But how can the Court ever punish a defendant when there is solid evidence of her innocence? The decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to absolve Asia Bibi is remarkable and gives a message to the whole world: justice exists in Pakistan, for all citizens, regardless of religion, culture or ethnicity."
Maulana Tariq Jameel, a well-known Pakistani religious and Islamic scholar, preacher, and public speaker, also commented: "I read the sentence and I believe that Asia Bibi is innocent. There is no sensible reason for taking to the streets and protesting. If she were guilty, I too would take to the streets, but she is not."
Other ulamas like Allama Muhammad Ahsan Siddiqui, founder and leader of the 'Interfaith Commission for Peace and Harmony' in Karachi have made similar statements.
Asia Bibi's lawyer, the Muslim Saiful Malook, who is in the Netherlands for security reasons, said: "An application of a revision of the Supreme Court ruling, in the case of Asia Bibi, will have no impact on the judgment pronounced last week. There is no re-examination of the case or the presentation of new evidence. The prosecution should show what in the ruling is not correct. In the application of a revision, statistically there is only 5% of probability that the verdict is changed, and in Bibi's case I believe there is zero possibility: that judgment is fully in line with the law and the country's Constitution."
Malook explained that it takes time to release an individual in prison, after the Supreme Court acquittal: "The verdict must be sent by post to the Lahore High Court, which must in turn send it to the judge of Nankana, in the court that first issued the death sentence.
"On the agreement between the government and extremist groups, he noted: "The government is not obliged to meet the demands of radical groups. The agreement serves to save the face of Islamic leaders."
Malook said he is confident that Asia Bibi and her family will soon be safely out of Pakistan.
* The BBC and several other news outlets this evening report that Asia Bibi has been released from prison. No details regarding her whereabouts have been confirmed.
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