The family of a Christian woman fighting a death sentence in Pakistan believe the country’s Supreme Court may be on the verge of announcing her acquittal.
The court on Monday, 8th October referred judgement in the final hearing in the case of Asia Bibi, whose conviction for blasphemy is on appeal.
Speaking on behalf of Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih and daughter, Eisham Ashiq, Father Emmanuel Yousaf said the Supreme Court’s decision could be announced within a few days.
Image: Aasiya Noreen "Asia" Bibi, a mother of five from Ittan Wali - a village in central Pakistan - has been in prison for nine years due to a comment she made about Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was deemed blasphemous. © British Pakistani Christian Association.
Father Yousaf, who is with Eisham and Ashiq Masih in the UK for events organised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said: “Although the judges didn’t give a judgement, this has happened in many cases of this kind in the past – and they still ended positively.
“We will have to wait a few days but we are confident that things will go well.”
Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five, in 2010 became the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy.
During yesterday’s final hearing of the case in the Supreme Court, there was a protest outside, calling for the death sentence to be upheld but proceedings ended with a verdict still pending.
Fr Yousaf said: “There is no decision – we are hanging in the air – but God willing it will soon be over and [Asia Bibi] will be back home with the family.”
Throughout proceedings, Asia Bibi has insisted that she did not insult the Muslim Prophet Mohammad, which carries the death sentence under Section 295 C of Pakistan’s Penal Code.
Image: Eisham Ashiq and Ashiq Masih (Daughter and husband of Asia Bibi) © Aid to the Church in Need
Renewing calls for prayers for Asia Bibi’s release, Fr Yousaf said: “We have prayed 10 years now for our sister, Asia, and I am confident that our prayers will be heard, and the judgement will go in favour of Asia, her family and the entire Pakistani Christian community.”
He added: “[The judgement] may come tomorrow. It may come after two or three days but I am sure it will be favourable.”
“Everyone who believes that the Blasphemy Law has been misused time and time again should pray for Asia Bibi’s release, regardless of their faith.”
- For the release of Asia Bibi.
- For the former governor of the Punjab province, the Muslim Salman Taseer and the Catholic leader Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minority Affairs who were assassinated for defending Asia Bibi, may their sacrifice not be in vain.
- For Asia Bibi’s husband and the rest of her family give them strength and courage.
Lord hear us,
Lord graciously hear us.
ACN helps the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), which is campaigning for a moratorium on the death penalty – the sentence Christian mother-of-five Asia Bibi received for the crime of blasphemy. The CCJP provides legal aid for Christians charged with other offences and who have nobody to help them.
Highlighting the increased radicalism, CCJP national director Father Emmanuel Yousaf told ACN: “The level of hatred and bias towards the Christian community has been exposed.” With ACN’s help, the CCJP is
supporting 17 people jailed following a 2015 riot sparked by an extremist attack on two churches near Lahore.
Desperate for justice, the falsely accused turned to the CCJP for legal aid, medicine, counselling, and prison visits. Fr Emmanuel reports: “So far, the CCJP with the financial support of ACN has acquired bails for six of those charged but there is a still a long way to go.” Appealing for more ACN support, he added: “Please go on contributing to the welfare and noble cause of the Christian community.