NewsRoom

Pakistan: Please Do Something

Yesterday, the Pakistan’s High Court rejected the appeal of a Christian woman sentenced to death for the crime of blasphemy. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, Asia Bibi will be put to death.

After half a dozen postponements and cancellations, Asia Bibi’s appeal was heard on Oct. 16 in the Lahore High Court. The defense took most of 35-minute hearing to argue their side, stating that plaintiffs waited six days before filing a complaint against the Christian woman. They argued that this showed conspiracy and intentional targeting. Her lawyers also pointed out that the man who issued the complaint did not even witness the alleged blasphemous statement. Twenty-five mullahs watched the proceedings from inside the courtroom. Outside, some 2,000 mullahs gathered in an effort to pressure the court to uphold the death sentence.

After the judges deliberated for nearly an hour, they denied her appeal. Asia Bibi’s lawyers now have 30 days to appeal to the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s highest court.

Asia Bibi was arrested in June 2009 after a heated argument with two of her co-workers. Asia worked for a Muslim-landowner as did many of the women in her village. As one of three Christian families in her village, after being pressured to convert to Islam during the spat, she defended her faith. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told the women, “and yours is not true.”

For this crime, in November 2010, she was sentenced to death. It took nearly four years before the courts would listen to her appeal. Having her appeal heard before the Supreme Court will likely take just as long. VOM sources say she could expect to wait months or even years.

There have been 5,000 blasphemy cases registered between 1984 and 2004 in Pakistan, but only 964 people were charged. Though death sentences in blasphemy cases are not uncommon, Asia Bibi was the first woman given the death sentence under this charge. Her appeal will be the second of death penalty case for blasphemy to reach the Supreme Court. In 2002, Christian man Ayub Masih was acquitted, giving Pakistani Christians hope that Asia Bibi may also acquitted.

Even if Asia Bibi is acquitted by the Supreme Court, she remains in danger from Muslim radicals. One Islamic cleric put a half-million rupee (US $5,000) bounty on her head. Extremist vigilantes have murdered 52 people following their acquittal from blasphemy charges, including 15 Christians. They have also targeted politicians like Governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, who both called for reforms to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Both men were killed within months of one another in 2011.

Following the ruling, Asia’s husband Ashiq Masih noted his disappointment, saying, “This appeal was supposed to be a ray of hope, but the rejection of the appeal has shattered our confidence.” VOM sources close to Asia say she’s probably depressed at this news. She has spent most of the last five years in near solitary confinement. She will need prayer and encouragement as she and those who are helping her continue to wait to see what God will do.

Asia told VOM workers, “Please do something. I have waited so long, and I want to be with my children.”

Sources: VOM Sources, Morning Star News

Posted: October 17, 2014
Updated: October 20, 2014

NewsAlerts

To receive VOM's News Alerts by email, please fill out the form below.
 
 
 
 
 
RSS Subscribe to the NewsRoom RSS Feed