LAHORE, Pakistan — A defense lawyer says a Pakistani court has granted a month’s release on bail to two clerics, leaders of a radical party behind widespread protests last year against the acquittal of a Christian woman in a blasphemy case.
Afrasiab Khan says the Lahore High Court on Tuesday ordered that Khadim Hussain Rizvi and his deputy, Pir Afzal Qadri, be released on medical grounds for a month.
Rizvi’s Tehreek-e-Labbaik party had long demanded the execution of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges last October by Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2009 after a quarrel with two fellow farmworkers, who refused to drink from the same water container as a Christian. Five days later, the women said Bibi had insulted Islam, a crime punishable by death. Bibi was charged with blasphemy despite repeatedly denying the accusation.
Bibi, who had since her acquittal been under guard at a secret place, was finally allowed to leave Pakistan last week to join her daughters in Canada.
The case has brought international attention to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which carries an automatic death penalty. The mere suspicion of blasphemy against Islam is enough to ignite mob lynchings in the country. Blasphemy allegations have also been used to intimidate religious minorities and to settle scores.