The final appeal was set to be heard today in Islamabad, after having been postponed from 2014. A judge refused to show up, perhaps out of fear. She is accused of blasphemy, but has always denied any wrongdoing. She has been in prison since 2009. Muslims call for a "quick hanging".
Lahore (AsiaNews) - Church officials have appealed for prayers after the country’s top court indefinitely adjourned the case of Asia Bibi, who has been on death row for six years accused of blaspheming the Prophet Mohammad.
A three-bench court headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar delayed the hearing after one of the judges stepped down from the case arguing he was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salmaan Taseer.. Taseer, the late governor of Punjab province, was gunned down by Mumtaz Qadri, his own guard, for criticizing the infamous blasphemy laws.
Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani national director Catholic Bishop’s National Commission for Justice and Peace attended the hearing of Bibi’s final appeal today in Islamabad where thousands of security troops were deployed.
“I urge everybody to pray for her, we pray the verdict favors this innocent woman”, he told AsiaNews. “Basically they didn’t do anything. I am not sure why they linked this case with that of late governor. Bibi’s defense lawyer wanted to speak for her but they did not allow it”.
Msgr. Joseph Arshad Bishop of Faisalabad also expressed his hope for Bibi’s freedom. “the witnesses are not solid. Also there has been no example in country’s history where a person has been hanged for blasphemy. Justice should prevail and the law should take its own route”, he said.
Meanwhile Muslim hardliners are pressurizing government to punish Bibi for the alleged blasphemy. In a statement, the “Shuhada (martyrs) Foundation” of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in the capital city said its supporters would take to the streets and will not allow the government to function if Asia was released.
“Lal Masjid will become a centre for the anti-government movement if Asia Masih is released. We are seriously concerned at the efforts for the release of blasphemous Asia Masih and will consider those blasphemous who defend her, whoever they are and on whichever position they are working” the foundation said claiming that some ambassadors have also lobbied for her release.
Similarly 150 clerics of Sunni Tehreek ST, a Sunni religio-organization, demanded Bibi’s punishment in accordance with constitution and Sharia law in a joint declaration. According to Quran and Sunnat, the only punishment for insulting Prophet Muhammad is death, it stated.
“The hanging of a prophet’s lover (Mumtaz Qadri) was a rebellion against laws, we demand the same quick action for Bibi. We are conducting meetings for a future strategy including sit-in movements and protests”, Mumahhad Nawaz Qadri spokesperson ST told AsiaNews.
Demonstrations in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and other parts of the country. Chanting the slogan #HangAsia, they demand the Christian woman and mother of five be executed. The anger and frustration of Christians entrusted to social networks. Pakistan "does not guarantee security and justice for minorities".
Today marks the sixth anniversary of the murder of former Punjab Governor. Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard for criticizing the "black law" on blasphemy and defending the Christian mother Asia Bibi. His son Shaan Taseer released a video deemed offensive.
After almost five years of captivity, the son of the former governor – killed for his opposition to Islamic extremism – was released. Now he is in a safe place with his family. “Perhaps this release is a sign of the times, mature enough for a necessary change of course strongly advocated by Pakistan’s civil society,” said a Justice and Peace official. For a human rights activist, “authorities seem to be on the right path, but they have a long way to go”.