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Pakistani lawyers support Supreme court decision to acquit Christian woman as Islamist protesters block roads

The case of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of four, who had been living on death row since 2010 as the first woman sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s tough blasphemy laws, has divided Pakistan.

Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. But a three-judge panel set up to hear the appeal, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, ruled the evidence was insufficient.

A majority of the lawyers spoken to by Reuters supported the decision.

Rights groups say the blasphemy law is exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

Dozens of Pakistanis – including many minority Christians or members of the Ahmadi faith – have been sentenced to death for blasphemy in the past decade, though no one has been executed.

At least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, including a 23-year-old student beaten to death on his university campus last year.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation in a televised speech on Wednesday night, supporting the court ruling and warning the ultra-Islamists not to disrupt the nation.

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