Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, has had her appeal rejected by the Lahore High Court of Appeal. Asia Bibi, who is 45 years old and has five children, was initially found guilty of blasphemy on 8 November 2010 and sentenced to death under Section 295C of Pakistan’s Penal Code for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.
There are serious fair trial concerns. Asia Bibi claims the evidence of her alleged blasphemy, which has been accepted by successive courts, was fabricated, and that she did not have access to a lawyer during her detention and the final day of her trial in 2010. Asia Bibi’s lawyer has maintained that the case against her is based on hearsay. Human rights activists have voiced concerns that judges of the Lahore High Court may have rejected the appeal out of fear for their safety. Religious groups demanding her execution were present in court.
Asia Bibi has been kept in almost total isolation for her own protection since she was first arrested in 2009. Her mental and physical health have reportedly deteriorated during her time in detention including on death row, and her family and lawyers continue to fear for her safety. In December 2010, a prominent Islamic cleric offered half a million Pakistani rupees (about US$5,000) to anyone who killed Asia Bibi. The blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal disputes, and those accused of blasphemy often become targets of violence.
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