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High Court hears Asia Bibi’s final death sentence appeal, but holds back verdict

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Asia Bibi was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and her case is one of the most controversial

(VOP) There is much speculation about the outcome of Asia Bibi’s final appeal heard today by a special three-member bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel. They will decide whether or not to confirm the death sentence of Asia Bibi. The chief justice warned the media and those present against commenting on or discussing the case until the court’s detailed judgement has been issued. No date is given when the Supreme Court will announce it’s decision.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5, was accused of blasphemy in 2009. In 2010, she was sentenced to death by hanging and spends her time in solitary confinement cooking her own meals to prevent an assassination attempt. Asia firmly denies the blasphemy allegations against her. If you are unfamiliar with the charges and details of her case, please read: What you need to know about Asia Bibi’s trial

Covering today’s appeal, Fides News agency shared that Christians in Pakistan await with bated breath, immersed in prayer and the conclusion of this final hearing. In the report Fr. James Channan who runs the ‘Peace Center’ in Lahore shared,

“It is good to know that, after such a long time, Asia Bibi’s case is brought to trial. Many people are praying for her release in Pakistan and around the world. It is our firm hope that, thanks to continuous prayer, she can be released. I am sure that the panel of judges will examine the case without prejudice and that justice will be done, without being influenced by external pressures. I pray that Asia may be released soon and may reunite with her family members who have lived many years of pain and anguish. If she is released, it will also give great relief to all those who, in the world, have felt deeply involved in this case, praying for her, so that this innocent woman may finally have justice. Moreover, if she is proved innocent, it will be necessary to punish those who falsely accused her, abusing the controversial blasphemy law”. He concluded, “Today we also remember those who were killed because of the support given to Asia Bibi: former governor of the Punjab province, the Muslim Salman Taseer and the Catholic leader Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minority Affairs. We hope their sacrifice was not in vain”.

Some are expecting the verdict to be announced within a couple of days, others believe that the risk of national riots and violence may delay the court’s verdict for sometime. Speaking to Voice of the Persecuted, a Pakistani Christian shared,

“The government doesn’t want her to be there anyways but the pressure from hardliners is keeping them from releasing her. There could be a national revolt if she is released so nobody has been willing to take the risk. If she is executed then Pakistan will face huge international humiliation. It needs to go through the due process and it will be a very tough decision.”

Asia is expected to ask the nation’s president for clemency if her appeal is rejected by the Supreme Court. Dawn News reports, “If that fails, she could become the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy”.

Asia’s husband and youngest daughter are in the U.K. as guests of the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need. Her husband told the Catholic News Service that they visited Bibi in Multan Prison on Oct. 1. He declared she was in good health, psychologically, physically and spiritually strong, contrary to reports that she was developing dementia. He relayed that Asia had a message that the international community must remember her in their prayers and that those prayers would open the prison doors for her soon release. He also said that while Asia is praying, she feels Jesus encouraging and supporting her, that she was ready and willing to die for Christ and would never convert to Islam.

She has suffered so long. Please keep our dear sister, Asia, in your prayers. May God have mercy on her. Pray also for Pakistani Christians and the nation of Pakistan.

The movie below was filmed in 2014 in Pakistan, France and Italy. It features Asia Bibi’s family, her lawyers, journalists and friends, all actively engaged in campaigning for her release. It also includes an interview with Anne Isabelle Tollet, the journalist and author of the book Blasphemy, helping to bring public attention to Asia’s case.

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