By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
PAKISTAN (ANS) -- This will be Asia Bibi’s fourth Christmas in prison. The mother of five was arrested for blasphemy in 2009 and has been in prison ever since. In November 2010 she was sentenced to death and two senior ministers who spoke in her defense – Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti – were assassinated by Islamic extremists.
According to the Pakistan Christian Post (www.pakistanchristianpost.com), no one has been arrested over Bhatti’s murder and although Taseer’s killer was imprisoned, the judge who passed the sentence had to flee the country after receiving death threats.
“Asia is appealing against her death sentence at the Pakistani High Court but the process is a lengthy one and has faced many setbacks. We have heard reports that she remains strong in faith despite her unimaginable ordeal, but her future remains very uncertain and the appeal could last many more years,” said the Pakistan Christian Post story.
The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) is monitoring this case with grave concern, and a spokesperson said, “We are providing financial support to her lawyer, Mr. Chaudhry, and we are campaigning at the international level by raising awareness of her case with politicians and the EU.
“We also continue to speak to the international community about the lack of religious freedom and respect for human rights in Pakistan generally. Please pray for Asia this Christmas and her strength as she fights for her freedom.”
The spokesperson added, “Younis Masih is still in prison after seven years and we regret to report that the appeal against his death sentence for blasphemy is carrying into another year. CLAAS has been working with Younis on his case since January 2011 and we have been paying regular visits to him in prison.
“In addition to spiritual and legal support, we are providing basic items to help make his detention more comfortable. We are also proving food aid to his wife and children each month.
“It has been another difficult year for Younis, who was sentenced to death for making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. An appeal hearing was held in November but proceedings were halted by the judge and it was rescheduled for December 17. Younis was present for the hearing and joined by CLAAS national director Joseph Francis and defense lawyer Naeem Shakir. However, the hearing was once again adjourned and is now due to take place on January 17, 2013.”