Final hearing for Christian woman facing execution for blasphemy in Pakistan

Asia Bibi has been awaiting execution since 2010 following a row in her village over a water bowl

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A Christian woman who has been facing execution in Pakistan for six years after being accused of blasphemy has been granted her final appeal.

Pakistan’s supreme court will hear the case of Asia Bibi, a mother-of-five from the rural village of Ittan Wali in Punjab, eastern Pakistan, who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhamed during a row with other women over water. 

All of Ms Bibi’s appeals in the lower courts failed before the supreme court temporarily suspended her execution in July 2015 ahead of a fresh hearing now scheduled to be heard on 13 October. 

If her final appeal fails, Ms Bibi will be the first woman to be executed under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. 

Critics of the laws, which have been condemned by the international community, have said they are being abused by people persecuting religious minorities or trying to settle petty local squabbles. 

Five days after the incident in June 2009, where several local Muslim women refused to drink water from the same bowl as an “unclean” Christian, a local imam - who was not present during the original argument - accused Ms Bibi of defaming the Prophet. 

Despite her insistence that she was being persecuted for her faith, Ms Bibi was sentenced to death the following year. 

The governor of the Punjab at the time, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in January 2011 after he attempted to get clemency for Ms Bibi.

The bodyguard, who was executed earlier this year, was showered by rose petals by supporters when he was taken to the courthouse to face charges in the days following the assassination.   

The Pakistani blasphemy laws date back to British rule in the 19th century and were originally inherited following its partition with India in 1947.

But during the dictatorship of General Zia al-Haq in the 1980s, the laws became more “Islamised”. 

Although no-one has been executed under the laws so far at least 20 people arrested on suspicion of blasphemy have been murdered while in custody, sometimes by their own guards. 

Ms Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Mashih, and their children have been in hiding since her arrest. 

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, he said: "I have great hopes in the supreme court and I am very hopeful that justice will done for my wife.

“She has been living a miserable life in jail for many years. I want justice for the mother of my five children.”

Her lawyer, Saif al-Mulook, told the newspaper that Ms Bibi had been falsely accused and “the complaint was registered on personal motives”.

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