Asia Bibi: acquittal could be close, says family
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.
Father Yousaf told ACN: “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.”
In 2010 Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five, became the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy.
During the 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.
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.”
Thair Khalil Sindhu, former minister for human rights and minority affairs of the Pakistani province of Punjab and member of the defensive college of Asia Bibi, declared to ACN: “There is a high probability that the court has postponed the issuance of the verdict because it intends to acquit Asia. We want to hope that they intend to organize the transfer of the woman from Multan prison to a safe place. Fundamentalists are ready to kill her.”
Saif ul-Malook, Asia Bibi’s lawyer, told ACN at the end of the decisive hearing of Asia Bibi against the State of Pakistan: “we have stressed that the evidence against the woman are insufficient. The case is based on an accusation of blasphemy denounced by a local imam who has not witnessed the dispute between Asia and their Muslim colleagues during which the Christian woman would have committed blasphemy. Furthermore, we have also pointed out to the judges that the police chief in Ittan Wali, near where the incident happened, has not made sufficient efforts to verify the allegations.”
Aid to the Church in Need’s project partner, the Dominican Father James Channan, declared yesterday to Fides: “It is our firm hope that, thanks to continuous prayer she can be released and 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”.
With thanks to Aid to the Church in Need.