Pakistani court has sentenced a Christian mother of two, Asia Bibi to death for “blasphemy" charges thereby becoming the first woman to receive such a capital punishment.
This indication is contained in a report by Release International, (www.releaseinternational.org), a United Kingdom based Christian organization serving the persecuted Christians in 30 countries around the world adding that a sessions court judge gave Asia the maximum sentence yesterday at the end of a trial that lasted for more than 16 months.
The report said that Asia, a farm laborer in her late-30s from Ittanwali, Punjab, was also fined more than £700 – the equivalent of two-and-a-half years' salary for the average worker.
“Release partners at Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP), who have been supporting Asia and her family throughout their ordeal, say that they and the family are shocked by this outcome,” it stated.
It noted that no one sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan has ever been executed – but Asia could now spend years in appalling conditions on death row. If she appeals to the High Court, it may take years before her case is heard.
According to the report, police first filed a case against Asia in June 2009 after local Muslims accused her of making derogatory comments against Islam's prophet, Mohammed.
“She had reportedly been discussing matters of faith with fellow laborers in the fields when Asia and her daughters were attacked by local villagers and Muslim clerics. She had reportedly been under pressure from her fellow workers to convert to Islam,” the report added.
It continued: “A spokesman for SLMP described Asia as having a strong faith – but said that this decision would be a crushing blow to her and her family. She was longing to go back home to her children, but her dreams of release have vanished now. She desperately needs peace in her heart, the peace that comes from God. The SLMP team plan to visit Asia in prison as soon as possible.”
Release International said they’re concerned that Asia's conviction could set a dangerous precedent. Martha Bibi is currently on trial for blasphemy in Lahore and she was charged in 2007, after a dispute with builders who allegedly refused to return equipment belonging to her.
“Act now by signing our petition calling for justice for Christians in Pakistan at www.releaseinternational.org/current or call our office Tel: 01689 823491 for a paper copy. Write to the Pakistan High Commissioner in London, expressing polite concern about Asia's conviction. Write to: His Excellency Wajid Shamsul Hasan, High Commission for Pakistan, 35-36 Lowndes Square, London SW1X 9JN,” Release further urged.
Release International, through its international network of missions, serves persecuted Christians in 30 countries around the world by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles and also working for justice.