Freed! Pakistan court acquits Christian on death row for blasphemy

Supporters of Tehreek-e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah a hardline religious party march during a protest in Lahore

Some radical groups led by imams have already decreed that they will oppose her release.

Supporters of a Pakistani religious group burn tires while block a main road during a protest after a court decision in Karachi, Pakistan, on October 31, 2018.

The TLP's leadership called for the death of Nasif, the chief justice, and two other judges on the panel.

He also called for the ouster of Khan's new government and urged army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Lamar Jawed Baja. Negotiations began shortly after the prime minister's address to defuse the situation.

Bibi's whereabouts were not known on Friday.

"Government has warned, "we will finish you off", Rizvi said in his tweet. Authorities have stepped up security at churches around the country. France and Spain have offered asylum to the 54-year-old mother of five, who is a Roman Catholic. Rangers were deployed around the court and other parts of the capital.

"What is the punishment for insulting the prophet?" the men chanted in central Islamabad.

Hafiz Sae, an influential Islamist whom the U.S. accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday afternoon prayers.

Hospitals were on high alert due to fear of clashes as police and paramilitary forces tried to contain the disturbance.

Punjabi governor Salman Taseer was assassinated for speaking out on Bibi's behalf and calling for the country's blasphemy laws to be overhauled.

Bibi was arrested in 2009 after she was accused of blasphemy following a quarrel with two fellow female farm workers who refused to drink from a water container used by a Christian.

Barnabas Fund has been providing monthly food parcels for Aasia Bibi's family for many years, as her father is unable to work because he is in hiding as a likely target for assassination being the husband of an alleged "blasphemer". A previous appeal hearing was adjourned in 2016 on a legal technicality.

Internationally, Asia Bibi's conviction has been widely condemned as a breach of human rights. Pope Benedict XVI called for her release. Her family has been in hiding this week.

"It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant's name Asia means "sinful" but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare's King Leare [sic], 'more sinned against than sinning, '" Judge Asif Saeed Khan Kosa wrote in a concurring opinion.

He said the verdict was issued in the light of the Constitution of the country which is also based on Islam.

According to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan's Penal Code, insulting the Prophet Muhammad is a crime punishable by death, while offending the ‎ Koran, Islam holy book, incurs life imprisonment. He was killed by his bodyguard - who was later executed, but is revered by many on the religious right. At the time, Asia Bibi said the case was a matter of women who didn't like her "taking revenge".

Pakistan's 295-C blasphemy law is based on sharia (Islamic law), which mandates execution for those found guilty of committing blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed.

Critics say strict blasphemy laws have often been used to get revenge after personal disputes, and that convictions are based on thin evidence.

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