Pakistan: ‘Blasphemy’ death sentence upheld for Christian mother of 5

Pakistan: ‘Blasphemy’ death sentence upheld for Christian mother of 5

A high court in Pakistan on Thursday upheld the death sentence for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who in 2010 became the first Pakistani woman to be sentenced to death for “blasphemy,” after Muslim fellow laborers accused her of insulting Mohammed.

After the high court in the Punjab provincial capital Lahore dismissed Bibi’s appeal, an organization that campaigns against Pakistan’s notorious laws accused the panel’s two judges of being swayed by about 25 Islamic clerics who it said were present in the courtroom “to apply pressure.”

The accusation was made by the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an organization with branches in Pakistan and Britain that provides legal assistance to Christians accused under the blasphemy laws. …

CLAAS now plans to make a final appeal to Pakistan’s Supreme Court, but says because of a large backlog of cases the process could take years. Bibi has already been behind bars since June 2009. …

Pakistan’s government could intervene in Asia’s case and those of others convicted of blasphemy, but for years it has shied away from calls to challenge the laws, wary of angering Muslim radicals.

The risks were hammered home when two senior officials who championed Bibi’s case and criticized the laws – a liberal Muslim governor and a Christian federal cabinet minister – were assassinated in 2011.

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