By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- A Pakistani court will hear the appeal of a Pakistani woman who has been "languishing in prison since 2009" after she was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy against Islam, amid hope her conviction may be overturned, advocacy officials involved in the case told BosNewsLife Saturday, March 15.
Asia Bibi's appeal was due to be heard Monday, March 17, "by a double bench at the Lahore High Court", confirmed Nasir Saeed, the Britain-based director of the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).
CLAAS Pakistan Director Joseph Francis said he was "hopeful" that "if there is no pressure on the judges by the extremists and the case is handled with care, consideration, and due diligence with the judges being left free to take their decision, her conviction will be overturned."
Bibi has always denied that she defiled the name of the prophet Mohammed during an argument with Muslim co-workers while working in the fields, according to CLAAS, which says it supports Christians "persecuted for their faith in Pakistan."
However a court convicted the 45-year-old mother-of-five and sentenced her to death in 2010, in a case
that attracted national and international attention.
Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, and the former governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, were both killed in separate incidents in 2011, after openly condemning the controversial blasphemy legislation and expressing support for Bibi.
The jailed bodyguard who publicly said he shot and killed the governor, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, is considered a hero of Islam by his supporters, Christians say.
CLAAS-UK Director Saeed acknowledged it will not easy for the judges "as it is a very high profile case and the whole world will be watching."
However, "I pray that God will fill the hearts of the judges with boldness and courage and not allow fear to rule."
He said he hopes the court would "follow the international norms and keep only justice in the forefront when reaching a decision." Saeed said he requested the "worldwide Church of Jesus Christ to unite [and] remember the judges and lawyers in their prayers, asking that justice is done."
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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