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On death row for blasphemy, Asia Bibi makes final appeal to SC

Updated November 24, 2014

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Asia Bibi has been on death row since November 2010 after being convicted of committing blasphemy. -Reuters/File
Asia Bibi has been on death row since November 2010 after being convicted of committing blasphemy. -Reuters/File

LAHORE: Asia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, filed an appeal in the Supreme Court on Monday, her final legal recourse after being found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) four years ago.

A high court in the eastern city of Lahore confirmed the death sentence of Asia Bibi last month, dashing hopes the conviction might be overturned or commuted to a jail term.

She has been on death row since November 2010 after being convicted of committing blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water.

“On behalf of Asia Bibi I have today filed an appeal in the Supreme Court," defence attorney Saiful Malook told AFP.

Malook said that in the petition his client has asked the court to reconsider deficiencies in the case including allegedly manipulated evidence and a delay between the time of the incident and its investigation by police.

Malook added that the blasphemy allegation was concocted by Bibi's enemies to target her and had no basis in fact.

“We expect an early hearing of the appeal and hope that the proceedings will be over in one year,” he added.

The allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009, when she was labouring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women she was working with.

She was asked to fetch water, but the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.

Bibi's husband has also written to President Mamnoon Hussain to ask for her to be pardoned and allowed to move to France.

Read more: Asia Bibi's husband asks President Mamnoon for pardon

“We are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President (Mamnoon) Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water,” husband Ashiq Masih wrote in an open letter dated November 17 and published by the New York Times.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has said the couple are welcome in the city.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence. Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy and has had a de-facto moratorium on civilian executions since 2008.

But anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

In early November an enraged mob beat a Christian couple to death and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln where they worked for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Holy Quran.

Also read: Christian couple beaten to death for 'desecrating Quran': police

In September, a policeman shot and wounded a 70-year-old British man with a history of mental illness in the jail where he was on death row for blasphemy