The Supreme Court of Pakistan agreed on 22 July to hear an appeal by Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who has been languishing on death row since 2010 after she was unjustly convicted of blasphemy.
Saiful Malook, Aasia’s lawyer, said in a statement: ‘The Supreme Court today accepted the petition of my client to appeal against death sentence confirmation by the Lahore High Court’. It was last October that the Lahore High Court upheld the death penalty against Aasia Bibi.
Accused of insulting the name of Muhammad in a dispute with fellow field labourers in 2009, she was unjustly convicted in 2010 and given the mandatory death sentence according to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
These notoriously harsh laws are frequently abused to settle personal vendettas, and Christians are particularly vulnerable to accusation by Muslims, because courts tend to place greater weight on the testimony of a Muslim than of a Christian.
Aasia Bibi is the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy. Politicians who oppose the blasphemy laws have paid with their lives. In 2011, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was murdered by his own bodyguard for calling for Aasia’s release and for the repeal of the blasphemy laws. And, within two months, the minister of religious minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated for the same thing.
Aasia Bibi found herself accused of blasphemy after a dispute with Muslim co-workers who refused to drink the water the Christian woman had provided, because they considered her unclean. According to reports, some of the women workers had been putting her under pressure to renounce her Christian faith and accept Islam, and Aasia responded by sharing with them about her faith in Christ.