Asia Bibi's last chance for freedom

Posted at World Watch Monitor:

Asia Bibi with her two daughters, before her sentencing in November 2010.
CLAAS

Pakistani Christian Aasiya Noreen (known as Asia Bibi) has been allowed to take her appeal against her death penalty for blasphemy to Pakistan's Supreme Court in the capital, Islamabad. Until the Supreme Court reaches its final decision, Noreen cannot be executed.

Commentators today have praised the Supreme Court for its courage to hear the appeal in the face of strong public sentiment against anyone seen to denigrate Islam, with some calling it a “historic day for Pakistan”.

Her lawyer, Saiful Malook, appeared in front of three Supreme Court judges at the first hearing today (22 July) in Lahore.

After her appeal in Lahore's High Court was unsuccessful in October 2014, this is now the last chance for them to appeal that her conviction should never have been allowed, due to inadmissible evidence.

While her previous appeal at the High Court in Lahore was rejected, the judges who turned it down conceded that they had based their ruling on a technicality, which they recommended be eliminated in future to make it more difficult to achieve blasphemy convictions.

The appeal judges explained they had no choice but to reject it, given the way Pakistan’s laws are written, and have turned to lawmakers to craft legislation that would empower trial courts to apply a test that would make future blasphemy convictions much more difficult to achieve. That test was not in place when Noreen, popularly known as Asia Bibi, was tried.

No more has yet been heard about what progress, if any, the lawmakers have made on this point.

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