Court Overturns Death Sentence on Christian Woman Accused of Blasphemy

A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, a case that has polarised the nation.

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours.

She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

The landmark ruling has already set off protests by hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws in the predominantly Muslim nation.

There is a heavy police presence at the Supreme Court in the capital Islamabad as many feared violence could break out.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisarm, who read out the ruling, said Asia Bibi could walk free from jail in Sheikupura, near Lahore, immediately if not wanted in connection with any other case.

Asia Bibi, who has four children, was the first woman to be sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws.

Her case gained prominence after the assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, who had called for her to be pardoned and for the blasphemy laws to be overhauled.

She was not in court during the hearing.

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