Pakistani Islamists block roads after Asia Bibi escapes execution

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Bibi was subsequently beaten and allegedly raped at her home, during which her attackers coerced a blasphemy confession out of her.

They protested against the release order of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted in Pakistan after eight years on death row for blasphemy.

Pakistani authorities will now not allow Bibi to leave the country until the Supreme Court makes a final review of its verdict, said provincial minister Noorul Haq Qadri, according to the agreement. Bibi told AFP by phone from prison after the ruling.

"I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now?"

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

The country's economy suffered a loss of Rs150 billion as the economic activities across the country are at standstill for the last three days in wake of countrywide protests after the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi in the blasphemy case. This is the most wonderful moment. "We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice". My children are very happy.

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

Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. Some said she insulted the Muslim prophet Muhammad when she refused to convert after the incident, The Guardian reported. For almost eight years, Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian farmhand and mother of five, had her life languish in limbo.

She was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, but was acquitted earlier this week.

"Placing Asia Bibi on the ECL is like signing her death warrant", said Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association.

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After the acquittal, large crowds gathered outside the court demanding her conviction to be upheld.

She was beaten until she was barely conscious, and then arrested by the police. In 2015, Pope Francis met with her daughter and offered prayers.

Politicians including new prime minister Imran Khan invoked blasphemy during a general election this summer, vowing to defend the laws.

Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where the country's strict laws prescribe a mandatory death penalty for some forms of the crime.

"Please keep praying", came a message to Barnabas Fund from Pakistan shortly after the judges' decision was announced and protest demonstrations began all over Pakistan.

She was tried and initially sentenced to death and has remained on death row until this decision from the Supreme Court.

And the Supreme Court's decision doesn't end the targeted use of Pakistan's blasphemy laws against religious minorities.

While no one has been executed by the state under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, a report by Amnesty International calls those accused of blasphemy "as good as dead".

After several weeks of delays and threats by Islamists groups against the panel judges, the Supreme Court overturned her death sentence today and ordered her immediate release.

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