As Pakistan's Supreme Court prepares to hear the final appeal to save the life of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, Release International is pressing for Pakistan's blasphemy laws to be repealed. Asia Bibi has been described as Pakistan's highest profile prisoner. She has been imprisoned and on death row since 2009, accused of blasphemy. Pakistan's Supreme Court is to hear her final appeal in October.
The farm labourer became the first woman in the country to be sentenced to death for blasphemy after a row with other labourers. Her Muslim co-workers refused to drink water she had brought for them because as a Christian they considered her to be unclean. On 14 June 2009 Asia was accused of uttering blasphemies against the prophet Mohammed - a charge she has always denied. In November she was sentenced to death. Should the Supreme Court uphold that sentence Asia Bibi would become the first woman in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy. Release is urging that Asia be acquitted, set free and protected.
Asia's is the most prominent blasphemy case in Pakistan. But many others have been targeted by these laws, and once the cry of blasphemy has been raised, lives are at risk. Families have been murdered and Christians driven from their homes, and even when the courts have dismissed the charges, Christians have been shot by vigilantes.
Politicians who oppose the blasphemy laws have paid with their lives. In 2011, Punjab governor Salman Taseer was murdered by his own bodyguard for calling for Asia's release and for the repeal of the blasphemy laws. And within two months the minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was assassinated.
Release chief executive Paul Robinson says, 'We call on the government of Pakistan to abolish the blasphemy laws and seek to create a society where every Pakistani citizen is free to exercise their faith and live in peace with their neighbours.'
We Need Your Support
ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.
Please support our journalism by donating today.Donate