One more hurdle before Christian woman accused of blasphemy can be free
Asia Bibi was cleared of blasphemy charges by Pakistan’s highest court last year, and the new challenge the Christian woman faced was how to leave Pakistan and find a safe place in the world where she would not be threatened by Islamist fanatics determined to see her put to death.
Now, however, the very court that cleared her has agreed to take up the case again.
According to the Pakistani national newspaper Dawn, the nation’s Supreme Court on January 29 will consider a petition to review its October 2018 acquittal of Bibi, who was originally charged with blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to death. The petition was presented by Qari Muhammad Salaam. The same three judges who ruled that Bibi is not guilty are set to preside over the review.
“In the petition, it has been argued that the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi did not meet the standards of jurisprudence as well as Islamic provisions and the ‘normal principle of justice with reference to application in blasphemy laws,'” Dawn reported.
It has also asked whether the Supreme Court of Pakistan was bound to take into consideration “the nature of the case” and consider all the technical faults in it — especially the inordinate delay in the filing of the First Information Report, the defective investigation — and let them become “a hurdle in the dispensation of justice, in view of the application of blasphemy laws read with judgments of the superior courts”. It has further asked that a member of the Appellate Shariat Court be included in the bench that reviews the judgement “because this matter needs detailed in-depth consideration and due to the peculiar circumstances of the case as well as Application of Section 295-C in its time letter and spirit”. It has also challenged the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the alleged ‘confession’ that Aasia Bibi was forced to make by the people of her village and argued that the Supreme Court should have applied the Law of Evidence differently in this case.
The petition was lodged in the wake of violent protests carried out by members of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan party after the high court’s October 2018 exoneration of the woman. The judges themselves faced death threats.
“To prevent the escalation of violence, the government of Imran Khan came to terms with the demonstrators and granted the revision of the verdict of the supreme judges,” AsiaNews said.
Bibi is located in Islamabad, in a place of maximum security, according to AsiaNews. The website reported that Bibi now “suffers from senile dementia because of her years on death row in the Multan penitentiary, despite being just 48 years old.”