Pakistan: Upholding blasphemy death sentence against Christian woman 'a grave injustice'

A Pakistani court’s decision to uphold the death sentence against a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges is a grave injustice, Amnesty International said. The Lahore High Court today rejected the appeal against the death sentence imposed on Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman. “This is a grave injustice. Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place – still less sentenced to death – and the fact that she could pay with her life for an argument is sickening,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director. “There were serious concerns about the fairness of Asia Bibi’s trial, and her mental and physical health has reportedly deteriorated badly during the years she has spent in almost total isolation on death row. She should be released immediately and the conviction should be quashed.” Asia Bibi’s lawyer said after today’s verdict that he will file an appeal to the Supreme Court. On 4 January 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was killed by one of his security guards after campaigning for Asia Bibi and criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, was killed by the Pakistani Taliban on 2 March 2011. “The laws are often used to settle personal vendettas – both against members of minority religious groups and Muslims – while individuals facing charges are frequently targeted in mob violence. Those who speak out against the laws face terrible reprisals. However, the blasphemy laws violate international law and must be repealed or reformed immediately to meet international standards,” said David Griffiths.