A Living Martyr Released: Part 3
01/09/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “I am still optimistic,” Said-ul-Malook told ICC in 2016. “I hope it will not take too long for the next hearing [to be scheduled] with a new bench. This was a routine matter. It is not unusual for [hearings] to be postponed due to an incomplete bench. I am still very hopeful for an acquittal.”
While Malook was optimistic, Asia had to wait another two years before the Supreme Court heard her final appeal.
On October 8, 2018, another three-judge bench heard arguments from the prosecution and defense. Following the hearing, the Supreme Court announced that it would reserve its decision for an unspecified future date. The court further ordered the media not to comment until the decision was formally announced.
Days after Asia’s appeal, fanatics took to the streets in Lahore, Karachi, and Rawalpindi, demanding that the government put Asia to death. Extremist groups warned of “terrible consequences” for the Supreme Court Justices if Asia was allowed to flee the country.
On October 31, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Asia Bibi of the blasphemy conviction she had been under for nearly a decade. The 56-page judgement found that the prosecution against Bibi had not proven the blasphemy charges beyond a reasonable doubt and that the presumption of innocence remained with the accused.
“Asia Bibi today got justice,” Malook told ICC after the verdict was announced. “The Supreme Court held that the charges against her could not be proven. The Supreme Court of Pakistan deserves a salute.”
Following the announcement, Islamic fanatics once again took to the streets in protest. “The situation on the roads is very tense today,” a Christian from Lahore told ICC after the verdict was announced. “Muslims have blocked the roads, set fire to tires, and are protesting continuously. Christians are feeling very insecure.”
After three days of protests, the Pakistani government signed an agreement with the protestors. The government agreed that it would not block a petition for Asia’s acquittal from being reviewed and that it would not block a petition to add Asia to the Exit Control List, barring Asia from fleeing Pakistan.
Some feared that the decision to acquit Asia would be reversed, but most felt that the deal was made to placate Pakistan’s fanatics and bring the protests to an end.
On November 7, after almost a decade in prison, Asia was finally released from jail by Pakistani authorities and moved to a secure and unknown location. At the time of writing, Asia and her family remain in Pakistan, but arrangements are being made to allow them to seek asylum in another country and hopefully, finally, be at peace.
With such high stakes drama, it is easy to forget about Asia as an individual. While the legal arguments, political assassinations, and international relations are important, what is most important is the simple, central point of this case: Asia stood up for her faith in the face of extreme persecution for nearly a decade. She never backed down and never took the easy way out.
For this simple fact, Asia must be considered a modern day living martyr and hero of the Church.
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