ASIA/PAKISTAN - A court hearing for Asia Bibi

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Asia Bibi's lawyers are working on the final "statement of defense" that will be presented at the Lahore High Court on October 16, a date that – unless there are more surprises - may be the last and decisive hearing of the appeal process for the Christian woman and mother sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.
According to what was reported to Fides by lawyer Naeem Shakir, a member of the defense team, "we will try to demonstrate the existence of a conspiracy against this woman, who has endured many challenges during the process and paid, so far, a very high price". "However, Asia has remained and continues to be steadfast in her Christian faith", he remarks.
The complainant, recalls the lawyer, is Qari Mohammad Salam, imam of a mosque in the village of Ittanwali, in the district of Nankana Sahib in Punjab. "But the complaint - Shakir explains to Fides - took place on June 19, six days after the the alleged act of blasphemy (which occurred on 14 June). The complainant's statement is based on hearsay, since the imam was not present when, according to what was said, Asia insulted the Prophet. Neither did the complainant directly hear any blasphemous expression from the defendant. The entire case is based on the testimony of two sisters who had quarreled with Asia and felt humiliated, this apparently triggered the complaint simply for resentment and revenge".
The lawyer is confident and concludes: "I am convinced that we will be able to obtain an acquittal with regards to the false accusation of blasphemy. This will happen if the Court’s decision is based on the principles established in the criminal justice system and whether or not it will be influenced by the pressures of sectarian groups and extremists".
Asia was sentenced to death on November 18, 2010. Her case has generated a broad debate in the country and in the international community and two politicians who tried to defend her, declaring his innocence, were killed in Pakistan: the Muslim Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province, killed on January 4, 2011, and the Catholic Shabaz Bhatti, then Federal Minister for minorities, who was murdered on March 2 2011. The two were urging a review of the blasphemy law, which had become an "instrument of oppression" because of the misuse on behalf of Islamic extremists. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 13/10/2014)