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Asia Bibi - Photo: VOM USA - www.persecution.com
Photo: VOM USA

A final appeal of the death sentence against Asia Bibi was heard by Pakistan's Supreme Court on October 8th. The court has reached its decision but chosen to not release it yet, warning the press against releasing any information until the decision is officially announced.

Asia Bibi has been imprisoned for nine years on charges widely seen as false. Many believe fear of further violence from Islamist militants has been a major reason why she has not been released. More details on Asia's case can be found on our website.

The reason for the court's delay has not been given, but there are huge difficulties facing the country with whatever decision made. The court could rule to uphold the conviction and death sentence. That would leave Asia with only an appeal directly to the president. If that decision was made, the international pressure against Pakistan would be substantial, since Asia has been widely seen as innocent.

If Asia is found innocent and released, she and anyone supporting her face the threat of death. In 2011, the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and a federal minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, were both assassinated for expressing their support. Asia and her family would also face imminent danger from those who are convinced that she is guilty. Fleeing the country could mean danger for her elsewhere, as well as violent protests within the country. One militant group has threatened: "If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences."

A third option could mean suspending the death penalty, changing it to life imprisonment which, in Pakistan, is 14 years in total. That would mean five more years of unjust confinement in prison, which may not prevent the repercussion of violent protests by militants who continue to call for Asia's death.

Pray for wisdom and justice on behalf of the judicial authorities of the court and those governing in Pakistan as they seek the best way and time to release the decision. May Asia and her family rest in the knowledge that they are in the Almighty Lord's hands and, though the situation may seem humanly impossible, "nothing is impossible with God" (Matthew 19:26).