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Pakistan's president will pardon Christian woman, official says

By the CNN Wire Staff
Family photo of Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan.
Family photo of Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan.
  • The High Court should release Asia Bibi, Punjab's governor tells CNN
  • She was sentenced to death for insulting Islam's Prophet Mohammed
  • "She's not going to be a victim of this law," Gov. Salman Taseer says

Islambad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will pardon a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, the governor of Punjab state told CNN Tuesday.

"What basically he's made it clear is that she's not going to be a victim of this law," Gov. Salman Taseer told CNN International's "Connect the World" program.

"I mean, he's a liberal, modern-minded president and he's not going to see a poor woman like this targeted and executed. ... It's just not going to happen," Taseer said.

Asia Bibi, who has been jailed for nearly 15 months, was convicted in a Pakistani court earlier this month of breaking the country's controversial blasphemy law by insulting Islam's Prophet Mohammed, a crime punishable with death or life imprisonment, according to Pakistan's penal code. She was sentenced to death.

She has filed a petition for mercy with the High Court, Taseer said.

"If the High Court suspends the sentence and gives her bail then that is fine. We'll see that, and if that doesn't happen, then the president will pardon her," he said.

A preliminary investigation showed Bibi was falsely accused, a government official said Monday.

"The president asked me to investigate her case and my preliminary findings show she is innocent and the charges against her are baseless," Pakistani Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti told CNN.

Bhatti emphasized Monday that he has reached only preliminary conclusions and will submit a final report Wednesday to Zardari's office.

Prosecutors say Bibi, a 45-year-old field worker, insulted the Prophet Mohammed after she got into a heated argument with Muslim co-workers who refused to drink from a bucket of water she had touched.

In a brief news conference at the prison where she's being held, Bibi said Saturday that the allegations against her are lies fabricated by a group of women who don't like her.

"We had some differences and this was their way of taking revenge," she said.

Bibi's death sentence sparked outrage among human rights groups, who condemned Pakistan's blasphemy law as a source of violence and persecution against religious minorities.

CNN's Luke Henderson and Ravi Agrawal contributed to this report.