Death Penalty Upheld; Battle Not Over for Asia Bibi
The family of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman imprisoned on charges of blasphemy, is still praying she'll be spared from death.
Late last week, a high court upheld a previous decision to execute her, but the battle is far from over. She has one remaining chance to be acquitted.
When CBN News met with Bibi's family in late summer 2011, they were hoping and praying she would return home by Christmas. That was more than three years ago.
Now comes news the Pakistani High Court upheld her conviction and death sentence for alleged blasphemy against the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
And that has her family very upset.
Todd Nettleton with the Voice of the Martyrs said it was a very difficult day for Bibi, her husband and daughters.
"When this hearing was finally held, I think their hopes were 'Finally, there's going to be justice,'" Nettleton told CBN News. "I think of Asia's daughters in particular [thinking] 'Finally, our mom's going to be free. She's going to come home to us,' and all of those hopes were dashed. This was a very difficult day for Asia, her husband, Ashiq, and for their daughters."
Asia's husband, Ashiq, he told CBN News he was very proud of his wife.
"Asia never left her faith. She's faithful and she never denied her faith," he said.
Nettleton says the evidence against her was tenuous. He believes the high court judges did not overturn her conviction because they were likely threatened by militant Islamists.
"There were about 25 mullahs that attended the hearing -- that were sitting in the courtroom -- and about 2,000 outside the courthouse bringing the message to bear to the judges, 'Hey, we're watching how you'll rule on this case. We know who you are. We know where you live -- that we know where you live [means] you're not out of our reach,' and I think that pressure was reflected in the fact that the verdict was upheld," Nettleton said.
Ashiq said his wife's imprisonment and conviction came as no surprise because Christians are a small, persecuted minority in Pakistan's Muslim-dominated society.
"It's written in the Bible, 'In My name you will face persecution and people will blame you and curse you,' and we are facing that," he said.
Asia has one more chance for acquittal. Her case is now on appeal to the Pakistan Supreme Court.
Nettleton says even if the court eventually frees her from prison, her life will still be in danger.
"She's not safe there," he said. "There is a mullah who has already issued a death reward for killing her. She will need at the very minimum to relocate to a safe place within Pakistan and more likely she and her family will have to leave the country for their safety."
So for now, there's one last chance, but the final Supreme Court decision could take months if not years.
And just like they did three years ago, her daughters remain faithful to the Lord no matter what the eventual outcome.
"We know God is alive. We know He is with us. He will be with us forever!" her daughter said.