Religious Liberty Expert Says Security Is the Only Reason for Delay in Asia Bibi’s Verdict

Security is the only reason Pakistan’s Supreme Court is delaying its ruling in an Oct. 8 appeal of Christian mother Asia Bibi’s blasphemy conviction, a religious liberty expert told Baptist Press.

“There’s only one reason, security,” said Shaheryar Gill, senior litigation counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). “Generally the Supreme Court announces decisions the same day. In politically high-profile cases, or in these type security cases, these are the only times when the court doesn’t announce.

“And they don’t even take that long actually, but this time it seems like they’re taking a little bit longer,” said Gill, who checks the court’s website daily for updates and is in touch with the ACLJ’s office in Pakistan.

“If she’s acquitted she is obviously going to need a lot of security…, security provided by the government,” Gill told BP today (Oct. 23). “And she cannot be released openly. If she is, there’s no doubt, no question about it, that her life will be in jeopardy. They feel proud of killing somebody like this.”

The Supreme Court of Pakistan heard hours of testimony before deferring a ruling in the case, with no official timeline set for a decision.

Bibi, a 53-year-old mother of five, was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 on charges of insulting the prophet Mohammad while working in a field as a day laborer in 2009. When Bibi offered a coworker a cup of water, the woman said Bibi’s Christianity made the water ceremonially unclean, setting off a chain of false accusations related to Bibi’s beliefs and backed by Muslim clerics.

Mobs led by the radical Islamic political party Tahreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) have protested by the thousands in several Pakistani cities since the hearing, according to many news reports. TLP is calling for Bibi’s death, threatening to kill Supreme Court justices if Bibi is given clemency, the French news service AFP reported Oct. 10. TLP has threatened to stage widespread protests capable of paralyzing the country.

The death threats are credible and should be taken seriously, Gill told BP. The government would have to protect her if she is released, likely clandestinely taking her out of the country before announcing its decision.

“There’s just no other way to protect her life, other than the government itself actually doing something,” Gill said. “Hopefully there will be a plan to basically fly her over to another country. That’s really the only option really, because if she’s in Pakistan, somebody will find her.”

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Source: Baptist Press