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Pakistan court stays execution of Asia Bibi in blasphemy case

Pakistan's Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Asia Bibi, who had been convicted of blasphemy. The court also granted the Christian woman leave to appeal.

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman from Pakistan's Punjab region, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010.

On Wednesday, Pakistan's highest court in Lahore stayed the execution and admitted a full hearing of the 50-year-old prisoner's appeal, which her husband had helped her launch.

Bibi allegedly insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad during an argument with some women she worked with on a berry farm. Bibi has denied the allegations, insisting that they were the result of a personal feud.

The verdict sparked mostly positive reaction on Twitter, under the hashtags #AsiaBibi and #FreeAsiaBibi.

Human rights activists are regularly calling for the Pakistan's blasphemy laws to be reformed. Former military dictator Zia ul-Haq introduced the blasphemy laws in the 1980s to appease religious parties, but they are seen as being regularly misused to settle personal scores.

More than 1,000 people have been convicted of blasphemy in recent years, and 20 people were handed the death penalty. None have been executed so far.

Former President Pervez Musharraf attempted a reform in 2011, but abandoned the plan after being faced with protests in the Muslim majority country.

That year, two politicians, one of them Punjab governor Salman Taseer, were murdered for supporting Bibi and criticizing the laws.

ng/kms (dpa, epd)

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