Appeal for blasphemy victim postponed for 7th time

Asia Bibi.
Asia Bibi.

Originally published in Persecution.org

The appeal in the Lahore High Court, of Pakistani Christian mother, Asia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, was postponed once again  until October 16, 2014 but this time at the request of Bibi’s husband.

This will be the seventh time the case has been postponed, and on this occasion, the case hearing had been fixed for Tuesday, September 9, 2014 in the Lahore Division Bench of Mr. Justice Anwar-Ul- Haq and Mr. Justice Shahbaz Ali Rizvi.

Hopes had been running high that finally Bibi would be acquitted and would be able to return to her family.

According to the Pakistan Christian Post (www.pakistanchristianpost.com), the defense lawyer, Mr S K Chaudhry, along with the legal team of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), including Tahir Bashir, Advocate, Nasir Anjum, Advocate, and Mr Joseph Francis, National Director of CLAAS were present in the court, while Mr. Naeem Shakir, another of Ms Bibi’s defense team, was on leave (out of country).

Also present, said the PCP, was Ashiq Masih (Asia Bibi’s husband) and he “requested the court to fix the case for another date as his private lawyer was not present and submitted a written leave application.”

The story then stated, “Whereas Mr Tahir Khalil Sindhu, Pakistan’s Provincial Minister for Minorities Affairs and Human Rights, was also present as a defense lawyer for Asia Bibi and he submitted a Power of Attorney about six months ago. He tried to speak before the honorable court, but the learned justice asked the all [the] present councils that [had] filed appeal on behalf of Asia Bibi and he was Mr S K Chaudhry…”

It was also said that the complainant lawyer Ghullam Mustafa [Khatam-e-Nabowat] was also present in the court.

The PCP went on to say that Mr. Justice Anwar-ul- Haq was “in the mood to hear the case” [and] he told all councils that court “will hear the arguments of the lawyer who filed appeal against punishment and he is present and can make arguments,” but Mr Justice Shahbaz Ali Rizvi suggested an adjournment of the case as Mr Shakir submitted a written application.

“Therefore the Judges have to adjourn the case hearing till October 16, 2014 for the said case and also passed an order in writing that on the next court hearing the case would be heard and there would be no other adjournment,” it added

Bibi, a mother of five, has been in prison since being sentenced to death by a Sheikhupura judge for blasphemy in November 2010. If executed, she would be the first woman in Pakistan to be “lawfully” killed for blasphemy.

The accusation followed a heated dispute with Muslim colleagues. Her trial took place and sentenced her to death.

“Asia has always denied that she defiled the name of the prophet Mohammed during an argument with Muslim co-workers, but was convicted following a trial. She was sentenced to death in 2010 and her case attracted national and international attention,” said Nasir Saeed, CLAAS-UK Director.

As Saeed said, that the shocking death sentence drew international outrage and strong condemnation from human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who saw the blasphemy laws as a form of religious persecution and called for them to be abolished.

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