Convicted of blasphemy, sentenced to death by hanging. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her based on insufficient evidence, though she was not allowed to leave Pakistan until the verdict was reviewed.
Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian who was convicted according to that country’s blasphemy law in 2010. While working in the field in a village not far from Lahore in June 2009, Asia got into an argument with three other women, none of whom shared her religion. The initial disagreement involved a cup of water from which Asia drank. This action angered the other women, who claimed she, being a Christian, had contaminated the utensil. The argument escalated until Asia was accused of blasphemy. Shortly thereafter, she was arrested and jailed. After almost a year and a half, in November 2010, she received a sentence of death by hanging.
An arduous appeal process ensued. Asia was placed in solitary confinement, where she sometimes faced abuse from officers. The hearing for her appeal was postponed numerous times. While she languished in prison, her sentencing fueled international outrage and condemnation from human rights advocates. Closer to home, Asia’s family received threats of violence and murder.
"It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful,’ but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning.’" - Asif Khosa, judge who presided over Asia's acquittal
Finally, in October 2018, Asia’s appeal was accepted and she received an acquittal. The judge who gave the ruling described the initial blasphemy accusation as a “concoction.” However, her legal troubles still did not end until January 2019, when Asia’s acquittal was upheld by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and she was formally permitted to leave the country, which was necessary for her safety. She traveled to Canada as an asylee, where she reunited with her family who had arrived before her.
A Death Sentence Over a Cup of Water? - The New Republic
Blasphemy convict: Aasia Bibi’s appeal at least two years away - The Express Tribune
Pakistan: Asia Bibi Case Delayed For Fifth Time, Court Seeks To Pardon TV Staff - The Global Dispatch
Asia Bibi: Pakistan court overturns blasphemy death sentence - The Guardian
Asia Bibi arrives in Canada after leaving Pakistan - The Guardian
Pakistan is one of the most repressive countries in the world with regard to freedom of expression, including and especially religious freedom. Blasphemy (i.e. insults) against religion in general can result in imprisonment, while blasphemy against Islam carries the much harsher punishment of death. Both in terms of the aggressiveness with which the Islamic-conservative government prosecutes such cases, as well as the harshness of punishment, Pakistan remains one of the worst places on the planet to speak out against religion or religious fundamentalism.