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Asia Bibi suffering for nine years

On June 19, Asia Bibi marked spending nine years in prison for a crime she has always denied.

She was arrested on 19 June 2009 when she was accused on charges of blasphemy following a complaint by her Muslim co-worker after an argument about drinking from the same bowl used by the Muslim workers.

The complaint was backed by the local Imam who claimed she had insulted the prophet Muhammad.

She was convicted and sentenced to death by a lower court in November 2010, after the court found her guilty of making derogatory remarks about the prophet Mohammed.

In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld her death sentence. However, the execution was stayed in July 2015, when the Pakistani Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal. Her case was due to be heard during October 2016 but unfortunately, the appeal had to be adjourned after one of the three judges, Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman, recused himself from the bench, and since then there has been no progress.

There is overwhelming evidence about the widespread misuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan and despite the global outcry, the law still exists on the statute books as it has become a very sensitive issue and the Pakistani government has no will to have a debate or make any changes to this law.

At least two public figures have been killed for speaking out in support of Asia Bibi. Former Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and former Minister for Minorities Shabbaz Bhatti, Pakisttan’s only Christian minister, were both assassinated for raising concerns over Bibi’s incarceration and calling for a review of the infamous blasphemy laws.

Though Asia Bibi’s lawyer had once given a statement that her case will be listed soon for hearing, recently Pakistan chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar has confirmed that Asia Bibi’s case will be soon heard at the Pakistani Supreme Court. According to media reports Chief Justice informed Asia Bibi’s legal representative that the date will soon be fixed. He also said he will hear the case personally.

This is the first ray of light for Asia Bibi and many organisations and individuals who have been concerned about her, since her appeal hearing was adjourned indefinitely in October 2016.

This is the time for the Pakistani courts to do justice with Asia Bibi who is still suffering in prison after nine years, for a crime she has always denied, and restore the belief of minorities in the Pakistani justice system.

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