Asia Bibi’s appeal hearing has been postponed “to a later date”. The Christian woman was sentenced to death without evidence on the basis of the ‘blasphemy law’.
Set for Monday 17 March, the first hearing was cancelled due to the absence of one of the two presiding judges. Under Pakistani law, two judges have to be present in death penalty cases for the entire trial.
A mother of five, Asia Bibi was arrested in 2009 on charges of insulting Mohammed. In 2010, she was sentenced to death under the country’s ‘black law’. Since then, she has been waiting for her appeal to be heard, held in isolation at the women’s prison in Sheikhupura (Punjab).
The High Court in Lahore, where the appeal is being heard, will have to decide whether the Christian woman committed a crime, namely, drank a glass of water from a well owned by a Muslim. As a result of this act, she was accused “of contaminating” the well, which was followed by a row with fellow workers and eventually the indictment for “insulting Mohammed.”
The high-profile case remains hugely controversial in Pakistan. The former Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was killed by his bodyguard in January 2011 after showing support for Asia.
Then, two months later, Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was assassinated after voicing support for Asia and demanding reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Late last year, Pakistan’s Federal Sharia Court demanded that blasphemy should carry a mandatory death sentence in all courts in the country.
Sources: Asia News, Release International
- Pray the Lord will continue to sustain Asia as she waits.
- Pray for the judges in this high-profile hearing. Pray that they will remain impartial and pursue justice; pray that they will not allow fear of extremist attack to influence their judgment.
- Pray that God will protect all Christians involved in the case, including Asia and her family.