07/08/2011, 00.00

Asia Bibi’s case still on hold, but family remains hopeful

by Jibran Khan
The woman’s lawyer has filed a new appeal against her death sentence. After visiting her in jail, husband and daughters say, “She is frail and can barely speak, but she has faith in God and has not lost hope.” For a legal expert, “fundamentalist pressures are too strong. Only a miracle can save her.”
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Asia Bibi is still under the threat of the death penalty. She has waited for months for an appeal trial but Pakistani judges do not appear in a hurry to add her case to their agenda. The Christian woman’s attorney, S.K. Chaudhy, filed again for an appeal after four judges were suddenly replaced on Tuesday. “Our hope is for the High Court to appoint a judge”, the lawyer said, who had filed an appeal in January against her death sentence for blasphemy, alleging that the original evidence presented in court was false. Meanwhile, Bibi’s health is deteriorating after five months in isolation in Sheikhpura prison. Security around her has been beefed up after a Christian man, Qamar David, was poisoned to death in Karachi Ventral Prison.

Ashiq Masih, Asia Bibi’s husband, visits her every week with their two daughters. He is desperate. “Bibi is frail and can barely speaks,” he said. “She asks me about the High Court hearing every time, and every time in disappointment I tell her that we are waiting the court to take up the case. She has not lost hope and she has the faith that God will take her out of the jail,” he explained.

"My Mother is innocent. She is weak and can barely speak. I can’t control my tears when I see her,” the youngest daughter said. “We have been forced to face hardships because my mother stood firm for her faith. We are praying for her, we are hopeful that someday she will be with us and we will once again live a normal life”.

Bibi’s eldest daughter is also in tears. “Every time I hear news about persecution or blasphemy, I get scared that, God forbid, something will happen to my mother. We spend every single day in fear. Although the delay is making me lose hope, I pray every time and feel that God will bring her back one day. The moment she comes, we will forget all the hardships we have faced."

For Saleem Murtaza, a legal expert who has been following up Asia Bibi`s case, “The High Court is delaying the hearing due to the pressure from extremists and clerics. There is a great possibility that if the High Court takes up the case, it will maintain the death sentence. The pressure from extremist groups and the bounty over Asia`s head will increase the threat for the judiciary as well. The courts will be closed for 15 days in the month of August and then another week for Eid. Nothing less than a miracle at this time can turn things around."
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