Asia Bibi ‘healthy and safe’; appeal possible in next four months

World Watch Monitor reports that Asia Bibi’s lawyer visited her on 21 October, and she is “healthy and safe.” Her husband Masih confirmed that he had visited his wife with Saif-ul-Malook, and that none of his daughters accompanied them on this visit. He could see “a glimmer of hope” on Asia’s face.

Malook said the Supreme Court hearing should begin sometime in January or February 2016. He remains “quite hopeful” she would be acquitted and released, he said. Citing “insufficient evidence” against her, he has not found sufficient legal grounds against her under either civil or Islamic law.

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Today the Supreme Court in Pakistan suspended Asia Bibi’s execution and gave her leave to appeal. No hearing date was set. The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil in Islamabad said this is the first time in the case that there has been a glimmer of hope for her.

On 7 July, the Mail Online reported that her husband has said he fears locals will beat her to death even if she is acquitted. He said his family had been ‘broken’ by the pain of living without his wife Asia Bibi, 50, who has been in prison for five years awaiting a death sentence for blasphemy.

Asia is the first woman sentenced to hang under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, but her husband of 22 years still insists she’s been framed and is begging the Supreme Court to acquit her.

Yet he revealed that even if she is freed, they will never be able to return to their home as clerics want her dead and have put a bounty on her head. They would pay as little as £60 for her to be dead, he said.

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PREVIOUS (16 October 2014)

In spite of protests within Pakistan and abroad against the country’s blasphemy laws, the Lahore High Court today upheld the death sentence for a Christian mother accused of insulting Islam’s prophet.

Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, is the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan. Arrested in June 2009 after Muslim co-workers in a berry field 60 miles west of Lahore beat her when she refused to convert to Islam, her death sentence was announced in November 2010.

Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, told Morning Star News that they were hoping for some relief, but that the verdict had devastated the family. “I met Asia in prison a month ago,” he said. “She’s fine and was hoping to hear good news, but, alas, our ordeal is not over yet.”

Her lawyers have indicated they will take the case to the Supreme Court – which could take up to three years.

The BBC reports that blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan. Critics argue that blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores and that members of minority groups are often unfairly targeted. Since the 1990s, scores of Christians have been convicted for desecrating the Koran or for blasphemy. While most of them have been sentenced to death by the lower courts, many sentences have been overturned due to lack of evidence. Muslims constitute a majority of those prosecuted, followed by minority Ahmadis.


House of Lords: Answers to written questions on 28 October:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans has had his question, regarding the blasphemy laws in Pakistan in light of the decision to uphold the death penalty against Asia Bibi, answered by Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con).

Baroness Anelay said that the Government are concerned to hear about the case of Asia Bibi and reports that a court has upheld the imposition of the death penalty. The Minister emphasised that the Government regularly raised the misuse of blasphemy laws both against Muslims and against religious minorities.