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Asia Bibi’s Supreme Court appeal date set

By editor - 27 August, 2016

Courtesy Claire Bergin / Independent Catholic News – http://www.indcatholicnews.com

Asia Bibi, the 51-year-old Pakistani Christian women sentenced to death after drinking water meant for her Muslim colleagues, will have her appeal heard by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in the second week of October.

The date was confirmed to International Christian Concern and it is the final legal avenue available to avoid execution.

Bibi was accused of blasphemy after the incident in June 2009.

In November 2010, she was sentenced to death. There has been international pressure calling for the release of the mother of five.

Bibi is Pakistan’s most famous blasphemy law victim.

She was working as a farmhand in fields with other women seven years ago when she was asked to fetch drinking water.

However, some of the other women – all Muslims – refused to drink water brought by a Christian because it was “unclean”.

A row ensued. A few days later Asia Bibi was set upon by a mob in her village near Sheikupura in Pakistan and accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad.

The police were called and took her to a police station for her own safety. She has been in custody ever since, for after the police saved her life they registered a blasphemy case against her.

She was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2010 after spending more than a year in a Pakistani prison.

After a failed appeal at the Lahore High Court in October 2014, many thought freedom was beyond Asia Bibi.

However, in a pre-trial hearing at Pakistan’s supreme court on 22 July 2015, the court suspended her death sentence, permitting an appeal.

In her forthcoming appeal, Asia will ask the court to reconsider deficiencies in the case which include poor investigation and manipulated evidence by the local police.

The last date scheduled for an appeal was to have been 26 March 2016, however after the judiciary and Government of Pakistan decided to push through with the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri under anti terrorism laws they were forced to postpone Asia Bibi’s appeal hearing.

Mumtaz Qadri had assassinated Salmaan Taseer who was a former Governor of Punjab for his stance for reviewing the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and freedom for Asia Bibi.

In the wake of Qadri’s death a wave of protests, including 100,000 Muslims encamped during a sit in process outside Government buildings in Islamabad, demanded termination of proposed reforms of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and death for Asia Bibi.

The government caved in on the reforms which had passed through Parliament and were to be ratified in the Senate of Pakistan.

Human rights groups believe Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used to discriminate against religious minorities, such as the country’s estimated three million Christians.

Although no one has ever been executed under them, as many as 10 people are thought to have been murdered while on trial.

Asia Bibi herself has always denied blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.

She has been kept in isolation for her own safety and her health has deteriorated during her incarceration. Christians account for less than five percent of Pakistan’s population, with approximately 95 percent of people identifying themselves as Muslims.

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