She was arrested in 2009 on charges of insulting Mohammed and was later sentenced to death. Since then, she has been waiting for her appeal to be heard while being held in isolation at the women’s prison in Sheikhupura (Punjab).
The case has received worldwide attention. Various petitions, including one that received 400,000 signatures, were organized to protest Asia’s imprisonment, and Pope Benedict XVI publicly called for the charges against her to be dismissed.
Initially scheduled for March 17, Asia’s first hearing was cancelled due to the absence of one of the two presiding judges. Under Pakistani law, two judges have to be present in death penalty cases for the entire trial.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA said, “There is word that she continues to be held in prison,” he noted in an earlier interview with OneNewsNow. “She continues to pray. She continues to read the Scriptures. Last summer, she was moved to a prison that was much further away from her family–from her husband and her daughters. That has been a very significant challenge to her because it makes it much harder for them to come and visit.”
The high-profile case remains hugely controversial in Pakistan. The former Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was killed by his bodyguard in January of 2011 after showing support for Asia.
Then two months later, Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was assassinated after voicing support for Asia and demanding reform of the country’s blasphemy laws. Shahbaz’s brother is now facing death threats. Late last year, Pakistan’s Federal Sharia Court demanded that blasphemy should carry a mandatory death sentence.
After this disappointing setback, pray that the Lord will continue to sustain Asia and her loved ones as they await the appeal hearing. Pray that the judges and other authorities will pursue justice and that they will be protected from those who wish them harm as a result.
Ask God to use this case for His good purposes, transforming the hearts and lives of those who do not yet know Him and encouraging believers to be courageous in their faith.