Christian Mother Faces Death by Hanging if Appeal is Rejected
10/06/2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy, has had her final appeal date set to be heard by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on October 13, 2016.
This Supreme Court appeal represents Bibi’s last chance to avoid execution through Pakistan’s court system. If the death sentence is upheld, Bibi’s only chance of avoiding execution would be through a Presidential Pardon, a power granted to Pakistan’s President in Article 45 of Pakistan’s Constitution.
“I will appear before the Supreme Court of Pakistan and argue her case while she will remain in prison,” Advocate Saif-Ul-Malook, Bibi’s Supreme Court Lawyer, told ICC in August. “I hope [the] result will be an acquittal.”
Bibi has been on death row since her conviction and death sentence were announced by the Session’s Court in District Nankana, Punjab in 2010. Her High Court appeal was delayed and rescheduled seven times, but was finally held on October 16, 2014 at the Lahore High Court. During that appeal, Justice Anwar-ul-Haq, one member of a two-judge bench hearing the appeal, confirmed Bibi’s death sentence.
On July 22, 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan accepted Bibi’s petition for her case to be reviewed and suspended her death sentence. Following that decision, Advocate Malook said, “The standard of evidence which is required to prove [this] offence is not available in this case. Therefore, I am optimistic that the honorable court will acquit my client.”
The blasphemy accusation against Bibi is based on flimsy evidence from a dispute that took place in June 2009 between Bibi and a group of Muslim women with whom she had been harvesting berries in Sheikhupura. The Muslim women became angry with Bibi when she, a Christian whom they considered unclean, drank water from the same water bowl as the Muslim women. An argument between Bibi and the Muslim women ensued and later the Muslim women reported to a local cleric that Bibi had blasphemed against Islam by saying, “My Christ died for me, what did Muhammed do for you?”
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “We here at ICC are excited to see that Asia Bibi’s appeal will finally be heard by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. It has been seven long years since Asia had this false blasphemy accusation completely change her life. It is ICC’s hope that the Supreme Court will resist outside pressure from radicals and extremists and decide Asia’s case on the merits. If decided on the merits, we believe that the court’s only conclusion will be to acquit. If acquitted, we believe this decision by Pakistan’s Supreme Court will lay a foundation for practical steps toward religious harmony in Pakistan and will be a signal that justice will prevail over extremism in Pakistan’s courts even when a religious minority is accused of blasphemy.”