Islamabad: A court will next week hear the appeal of a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death for blasphemy four years ago that lead to global condemnation.
“The Lahore High Court will on March 17 hear the appeal against the death verdict. This is the first time her appeal is being heard after four years in jail,” said Joseph Francis, Pakistan Director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement – a group that provides legal assistance to the woman Aasia Bibi, and members of minorities in Pakistan.
He hoped there would be no pressure from extremist groups.
Bibi was sentenced to death under the controversial blasphemy law. A mother of five, Bibi was arrested in 2009 on charges of blasphemy.
She was was sentenced to death in November 2010 and has been awaiting the outcome of her appeal since then.
Bibi is said to be locked in solitary confinement in a women’s prison in Sheikhupura in Punjab province.
Few in Pakistan have dared to come out in open support of the woman.
Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, ex-minister for religious minorities were vocal supporters of her, but both of whom were shot dead.
While Taseer was shot dead by his own bodyguards, Bhatti was killed by extremists.
Pakistan ranks first among countries that increasingly use blasphemy laws to jail citizens for ‘attacking’ religion, according to a US report.
The recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government advisory panel, expressed concern over the increased use of blasphemy laws to punish people who expressed different religious views or those who have been falsely accused of doing so.
The report found that Pakistan used its controversial law at a level “incomparable” to anywhere else.
It has also been alleged that the law is often misused to settle personal scores and grudges.