Her latest appeal has been set for Tuesday, September 9, 2014, but will it take place after five previous cancellations?
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Pakistani Christian mother Asia Bibi's appeal hearing on her death sentence for blasphemy has now been set for Tuesday, September 9, 2014, at the Lahore High Court.
Back in May her appeal was postponed for the fifth time, when the counsel for the complainant did not turn up. A hearing on her appeal has been repeatedly delayed, and sources in Pakistan report that the courts have been ordered not to hear her case, for fear of provoking a backlash by the militant Muslims who have demanded her execution.
Now Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill, Human Rights Defender and Chief of Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD), a non-governmental organization providing legal aid to marginalized people who are either falsely implicated by the police or unable to afford legal assistance, has told ANS that he is hopeful that her appeal will finally be heard.
"Today (Saturday, September 6, 2014) it is confirmed that the appeal hearing has been fixed for September 9, 2014 in the DB (Division Bench) of Mr. Justice Anwar Ul Haq," said Mr. Gill.
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 b e 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.
Pakistan protesters on behalf of Asia Bibi
That 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.
Pope Benedict XVI publicly called for clemency for her. In his statement, he described his "spiritual closeness" with Asia Bibi and urged that the "human dignity and fundamental rights of everyone in similar situations" be respected.
Blasphemy is a serious crime in Muslim-majority Pakistan and carries the death sentence, but human rights groups say the charges are often trumped up as a means of settling personal scores and vendettas.
Anyone accused of blasphemy in Pakistan faces threats to their life from extremists. Relatives often have to go into hiding to escape the same fate, and being behind bars doesn't make the accused any safer.
Salmaan Taseer pictured with Asia Bibi. He was murdered shortly after this was taken
Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill has asked Christians around the world to "to pray for us and also for Asia Bibi's appeal acceptance."
If this occurs, she will then be able to return to her family, but even then, her nightmare may not be over, as she would probably have to go into hiding with her family, as there are those in Pakistan who would like to kill her.
Already, there have been two high profile murders of Pakistan leaders who have been assassinated for standing up for her. They were Christian minorities' minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Pakistani government politician Salmaan Taseer, the then governor of Punjab, who were both killed for advocating on her behalf and opposing the blasphemy laws.