Christian woman on death row in Pakistan for insulting Prophet Muhammad to make final court appeal

Asia Bibi has spent nine years in jail after being accused of breaching blasphemy laws following a row with Muslim women

Alex Matthews-King
Sunday 07 October 2018 00:54
The case has drawn international attention to Pakistan’s treatment of its religious minorities
The case has drawn international attention to Pakistan’s treatment of its religious minorities

A Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for insulting the Prophet Muhammad will have her final appeal heard by the Supreme Court on Monday, her lawyer has said.

Asia Bibi has spent nine years in prison after being accused of contravening the country’s strict blasphemy laws following a dispute in June 2009.

The case has drawn international attention to Pakistan’s treatment of its religious minorities and Ms Bibi's supporters, including Pope Benedict XVI, who called for the charges to be dismissed, saying she is being persecuted for her faith.

Ms Bibi has already received one stay of execution from the Supreme Court, in 2015, after lower courts rejected the appeals.

If her appeal fails the mother of five, from the rural village of Ittan Wali, Punjab, will become the first woman to be executed for blasphemy in Pakistan.

The international community has condemned blasphemy laws in Pakistan and elsewhere for being regularly invoked against religious minorities to settle local squabbles.

In Ms Bibi’s case she was working in the fields alongside several Muslim women who refused to drink from the same water supply as an “unclean” Christian.

Several days later a local imam, who was not present during the argument, claimed she had defamed 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 in 2016, was showered by rose petals by supporters when he was taken to the courthouse to face charges in the days following the assassination.

In August, a Buddhist woman in Indonesia was jailed for insulting Islam after she complained a mosque was playing the call to prayer too loudly.

The Republic of Ireland has committed to a referendum on its blasphemy laws which in 2017 saw comedian Stephen Fry investigated by police.

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