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Christian woman loses Pakistan blasphemy appeal

October 16, 2014

The Lahore High Court has upheld the death sentence awarded to Christian woman Asia Bibi. The mother of five was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in a controversial case in 2010.

Asia Bibi
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Two judges of the Lahore High Court announced on Thursday that Asia Bibi's death sentence would be upheld. The judges, headed by Justice Anwarul Haq, dismissed Asia Bibi's appeal after her lawyers failed to prove her innocence.

Asia Bibi's lawyer Naeem Shakir told reporters after the verdict: "We are utterly disappointed. But we will file a review petition against the LHC [Lahore High Court] decision in the Supreme Court." Shakir is hopeful that the country's highest court will grant Asia Bibi amnesty.

'Blasphemy' in 2009

Asia Bibi is from a rural area close to Lahore in eastern Pakistan. Allegations of blasphemy against the mother of five children go back to 2009. At the time, Asia, who was working in a field, was asked to fetch water.

Muslim women working with her objected, since Asia Bibi was not Muslim and therefore unfit to touch the water. The heated arguments that ensued ended her being charged of blasphemy. After being found guilty of making derogatory comments against Islam's main prophet, she was sentenced to death in 2010.

Blasphemy - insulting the Prophet Muhammad - is punishable by death in Pakistan. The controversial laws were re-introduced in the 1980s by former dictator Zia-ul-Haq. Human rights organizations in Pakistan say that the laws are often used to settle personal scores and discriminate against religious minorities.

Even lawyers and politicians defending those accused of blasphemy become targets of mob attacks. Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who supported a call for Asia to be pardoned, was gunned down in 2011 by a police guard in Islamabad.

mg/sb (dpa, PTI)