(Vatican Radio) Sentence suspended and review of the case: these are the provisions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan after the first judgment of the appeal process, in the third and final level of jurisdiction regarding the case of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian mother, sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan.
Ms Bibi was arrested in 2009 after being involved in a dispute over a vessel of water with a group of Muslim women she was working with. The women accused her of blasphemy, saying she insulted the Prophet Muhammed, which is a capital offence in Pakistan. She was convicted of the charge and sentenced to death in 2010.
Pakistani human rights activist Cecil S. Chaudury, who advises the director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the Pakistani Bishops' Conference, spoke to Vatican Radio on Wednesday:
As Fides learns from Joseph Nadeem, tutor of the woman’s family, in the audience held this morning, July 22, at 9:30 am in Lahore, a college of three judges declared the appeal filed by the woman’s lawyer, the Muslim lawyer Saiful Malook "admissible". The court will therefore fix a date in due course to review the substance of the appeal raised by the defense. Meanwhile, Asia’s death sentence has been suspended.
Naveed Aziz, an officer for the British Pakistani Christian Association, said in an update from the courtroom in Islamabad: “Sister Asia will have to spend more time in jail, but her freedom is now a real possibility and only a matter of time.”
Joseph Nadeem was present in court, head of the "Renaissance Education Foundation", who deals with the legal fees and assists Asia’s family, said that the hearing took place in a calm atmosphere and that there were no Islamic religious leaders or Muslim extremists present in court.
Nadeem told Fides: "Today is an important step forward. We are very satisfied. Now it is the time to pray and ask the Lord to melt the hearts of those involved in this case, including the judges, and pray that justice is done and Asia is released. We pray that Asia is strengthened by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And we pray for her release".
Since the case caught the attention of human rights groups worldwide, pressure has mounted on the Pakistani authorities to acquit her of the charges.
In November last year Ms Bibi’s husband Ashiq Mashi wrote to Pakistan’s presiden’s Mamnoon Hussain, to ask for her to be pardoned and allowed to move to France.
Previously, in an interview with Vatican Radio, Asia Bibi’s lawyer Joseph Nadeem had highlighted the importance of the international community putting pressure on the Pakistani government to free Ms Bibi.