Pakistan court jails dozens of Islamists over Asia Bibi protests

18 January, 2020 12:00 AM printer

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court has sentenced more than 80 Islamists to 55 years in prison each after protests linked to the 2018 acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, one of their senior leaders told AFP.

The sentence—an unusually harsh one in Pakistan, where blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue—was announced by a lower court in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on Thursday, said Pir Ejaz Ashrafi, a senior leader of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP).

The Islamists were members of the radical TLP, an anti-blasphemy party which had spearheaded violent protests across Pakistan in the wake of Bibi’s acquittal in late 2018. At the time Pakistan took its leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, into custody as part of a broad effort to quell the unrest.

Ashrafi said 86 members of the TLP were convicted after a trial which lasted for more than a year but he argued that the protests had been against Rizvi’s arrest, not Bibi’s acquittal.