ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
Updated: July 22, 2015 09:21 PM GMT
Ashiq Masih, left, husband of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman facing a death sentence for blasphemy, carries law books as he comes out from the Supreme Court in Lahore on July 22. (Photo: AFP/Arif ALI)
Pakistan's top court has suspended the execution of Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, after agreeing to hear her appeal.
A three-judge bench on July 22 ordered a halt to the execution pending the outcome of the appeal.
Bibi was arrested in Sheikhupura district of Punjab province in 2009 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammad, a charge she denies.
A trial court subsequently charged Bibi with blasphemy and sentenced her to death in November 2010.
Bibi says she was targeted after she drank water from a vessel fellow Muslim workers were using.
She was told it was forbidden for Christians to drink water from the same vessel.
Several workers complained to a cleric that she had insulted Muhammad prompting an angry mob to attack her, she says.
The blasphemy charges followed soon after, she said.
In October last year, the Lahore High Court dismissed Bibi's appeal and upheld her death sentence. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, then appealed to Pakistan's president for clemency and filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.
The court is yet to set a date to hear the appeal, Bibi's lawyer, Saif ul Malook, told ucanews.com.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace, the human rights body of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, welcomed the Supreme Court's decision.
"The Supreme Court is the highest judicial forum and we are very much hopeful that justice will prevail and Asia Bibi will walk free," Cecil Chaudhry, the commission's executive director, told ucanews.com.
"It is a positive thing that the Supreme Court has decided to review Asia Bibi's case," he said.
Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law has drawn international condemnation as well as criticism within Pakistan. Former Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer and minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were both assassinated after they spoke out against the misuse of controversial blasphemy law and called for reforms.
….As we enter the first months of 2022, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.