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Pakistani court again postpones hearing from Asia Bibi

October 13, 2016

A long-awaited hearing of Asia Bibi’s appeal by the Pakistan’s Supreme Court was postponed indefinitely on October 13, as one member of the three-judge panel recused himself from the case.

October 13 was the scheduled date for the Supreme Court hearing in the case of Asia Bibi—the Christian woman who was jailed in 2009 on a highly questionable blasphemy charge, and sentenced to death. But Justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman announced that he would not participate in the hearing, because he had taken part in the earlier blasphemy case of Salmaan Taseer, which he said was related. Taseer, the governor of the Punjab province, was assassinated after he expressed support for Bibi’s appeal.

The postponement of the Bibi case came as a shock to her supporters, who have worked since 2009 to secure the young mother’s release from prison. But the judge’s decision to recuse himself may also have been influenced by the heavy pressure from radical Islamic groups, which have threatened to carry out their own vigilante justice if the death sentence is not upheld. There were scores of police officers present for the Supreme Court hearing in Islamabad, and many more deployed on the streets around the building, reflecting official concerns about the potential for violence.

Bibi’s supporters have petitioned the court to appoint another judge for the hearing. Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who chaired the panel hearing the case, said that an announcement would be made soon about the new date for the appeal.


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