According to the UK branch of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Assistance (CLAAS), the Gujranwala session judge, Mohammad Asghar Khan, yesterday [Wednesday, August, 11, 2010] dropped charges against Rubina Bibi who had been accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed by a local Muslim shopkeeper following a dispute over a food product (butter) she had bought and tried to return.
Ms. Bibi was arrested in March and would have faced the mandatory death penalty if convicted under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The 25-year-old mother of three spent almost six months in Gujranwala jail with her one and a half year old son, Joshua, but was released late yesterday following the judges ruling. Ms. Bibis accuser had recently offered to settle the matter out of court if she converted to Islam.
The case was heard under strict security, following last months attack and murder of Christian pastors Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel as they left a Faisalabad court where they, too, were answering blasphemy charges. Ms. Bibi was represented by CLAAS-Pakistans lawyer Tahir Bashir Gul, and Director of CLAAS-Pakistan Joseph Francis.
After the hearing, Mr. Francis said: The victory has been possible because of the prayers of our supporters throughout the world and I am feeling a bit relieved as defending someone in a blasphemy case is equally dangerous for us and several times in the past we have been threatened and even attacked for representing the victims of blasphemy law.
CLAAS has been providing legal aid for Ms. Bibi since her arrest, and supporting her family throughout the ordeal. She was denied bail several times and Muslim extremists groups reportedly tried to influence the outcome of the case against her. Ms. Bibi and her family, including her husband and two other children, have been moved to an unknown location for their safety.
Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK said, Although CLAAS has a life-saving track record, in this case I am very happy as Rubina is only 25 years old and even her one and half year old son was imprisoned with her, which was very unfair. We are grateful to everybody who has been praying for Rubinas release. Rubina has been cleared of blasphemy charges in a very short period of time and we all know that normally these cases take years and years to be settled.
This is the second time that CLAAS has successfully settled a blasphemy law case in Alipur Chattah, district Gujranwalam, having secured justice for Hussain Masih and his son Isaac, nearly a decade ago.
CLAAS is campaigning for Pakistans blasphemy laws to be amended and ultimately repealed, as they are often used to settle personal grudges against Christians and other religious minorities.