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Long wait on death row for Aasia Bibi as...

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Long wait on death row for Aasia Bibi as appeal stalls

Country/Region: Pakistan, South and East Asia

Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother who is on death row in Pakistan falsely accused of blasphemy, may be left languishing in jail for years awaiting an appeal of her case.

asia_bibi_4X3.jpg
Aasia Bibi

She has already been behind bars for over two years since she was accused of making derogatory remarks about Muhammad in June 2009. Aasia was sentenced to death last November in a highly controversial case that threw an international spotlight on Pakistan’s "blasphemy laws", which are frequently used against Christians and other non-Muslims.

An appeal was lodged before the Lahore High Court, and Aasia was expected to be executed in November if it failed. But now lawyers associated with the case have indicated that the hearing is unlikely to be held any time soon for a host of reasons.

There is a five-year backlog of cases; the Lahore High Court is only now hearing review petitions filed in 2006-2007. Although the chief justice has the authority to bring forward a priority hearing, a lawyer in Lahore, who filed Aasia’s review petition, said this did not appear to be happening in her case.

Islamist pressure

This has arguably been the most controversial case in the country’s recent legal history, and there is likely to be considerable pressure on the court when the appeal is heard. Aasia’s plight prompted calls for amendments to the blasphemy laws, and the Pakistan Government initially made noises about a review. But it was forced to retreat by an aggressive Islamist backlash. There were widespread public protests, and two high-profile politicians, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Government Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who defended Aasia and called for reform, were shot dead by militants.

The court may therefore want to hold off hearing the case until the furore over it has died down.

Then there is the question of who would be willing to defend Aasia in court given that her other advocates have been murdered. The lawyer who filed the review petition is unsure whether or not he would be able to pursue the case. He said that the assassinations of Governor Taseer and Mr Bhatti frightened all those who initially supported Aasia; they fear that even speaking in her favour would put their own lives at risk.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, "defiling the name of Muhammad" carries a mandatory death sentence, though no-one has yet been executed for the offence; most of those convicted of blasphemy have their sentences overturned or reduced on appeal, when it eventually comes to court. But, since 1990, at least ten Pakistanis accused of blasphemy have been killed by zealous Muslims while their cases were being considered.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Lift up the Christian lawyers in Pakistan who represent Christian victims accused under the notorious “blasphemy” law. Many lawyers in Pakistan are not willing to represent those who have been accused of blasphemy due to the threats they themselves face from Islamist extremists if they do so. Barnabas Fund supports a group of Christian lawyers who make these cases their focus. They also help victims of other types of persecution, such as converts from Islam. Pray for the safety of these lawyers and for their success in the courts as they seek to right injustices against the Lord’s people. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 6 hours ago

    • Praise God that local police in the village of Tehsil Summodri, Faisalabad District, Pakistan acted to withdraw false allegations of blasphemy against 31 Christians and 23 other villagers. The allegations under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (which carries a mandatory death sentence) were made on 2 September when Christians were ploughing a piece of land given to them for free by its Muslim owner to extend the local Christian cemetery. A group of Muslims accused them of desecrating Muslim graves. The police investigation revealed that the land had been a Muslim cemetery many years earlier but the graves had been moved elsewhere. They changed the charges to the lesser ones under Section 297 (which carries a maximum prison sentence of one year or a fine). It is very unusual for the Pakistani police to defend the rights of Christians in this way. Pray that others will follow their example. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Nov 2014 00:00

    • School text-books in Turkey are still teaching that the Armenians and most other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire a century ago were agents of enemy foreign powers such as Britain and Russia. This, the books say, was the reason for what they call the “necessary deportation” of the Christians. Turkey still does not accept blame for the deaths of at least 1.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians, many massacred or dying of deprivation as they were force-marched out of their homeland. Next year, 2015, is the 100th anniversary of the worst year of the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide. Please pray that the innocent suffering of these faithful believers will be recognised by every country and that the world will resolve never to let such a genocide happen again. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Pray for 27 Christians, believed to be from various Asian countries, who were detained overnight by the Saudi authorities on 5 September for worshipping at a private home in Khafji. The home had been under surveillance since a neighbour had reported suspicious activities there. Pray that the Lord will protect His people in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to practise a non-Islamic religion in public but supposedly permissible to do so in private. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Wao, a predominantly Christian town on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, is protesting against its inclusion in the new semi-independent Islamic region of Bangsamoro. Wao’s mayor, Elvino Balicao, is seeking exemption from the Bangsamoro government and its Islamic law and has asked that the town remain under the central government. He said that the town is 83% Christian and that local churches support exemption from Bangsamoro. Wao is in the centre of the Muslim-majority province of Lanao del Sur. Pray that the Lord will protect His people and that Wao will gain exemption from the Bangsamoro government. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Nov 2014 00:00

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