The Pakistan Supreme Court has postponed the appeal of Asia Bibi, sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy, after one of the judges recused himself from the case
The Pakistan Supreme Court has postponed the appeal of Asia Bibi, sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy, after one of the judges recused himself from the case. On 13 Oct 2016, Judge Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman, one of three judges assigned to the case, told his colleagues he could not participate in the deliberations as he had heard the appeal in the Salmaan Taseer case, which he said was related to the Bibi appeal. In 2011 Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was murdered by one of his body guards, Mumtaz Qadri, after he spoke in support of Asia Bibi. Qadri was sentenced to death and Judge Rehman heard his appeal for clemency. In 2010 Asia Bibi was convicted for blasphemy under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly insulting the prophet of Islam, Muhammad. A conviction for blasphemy under Pakistani law warrants the death penalty. Bibi was accused of having made three “defamatory and sarcastic” statements about Muhammad on 14 June 2009 during a dispute with three Muslim women while they were picking fruit in a field. Prosecutors allege that Bibi “admitted” her offence at a “public gathering” on 19 June 2009. A local cleric filed a complaint with police against Bibi and she was arrested, tried and convicted for blasphemy. Bibl denies having made the statements, saying she only exchanged “hot words” with her accusers. The Lahore Court of Appeals found the trial court had not given Bibi a fair trial, as her attorney had “not defended its case with the required seriousness.” However, it held that Bibl’s admission that she had exchanged “hot words” could only be construed as being blasphemy, and upheld her conviction in 2014. The Supreme Court agreed to take up her appeal last year, but it has come under intense pressure from Islamist extremists to uphold the sentence. On the day of the scheduled hearing heavily armed police surrounded the courthouse, while protesters demanded Bibi be executed immediately. No date has yet been set for a new hearing.