Pakistan's Supreme Court Adjourns Asia Bibi Capital Punishment Appeal

Asia Bibi
Pakistan's Supreme Court adjourned Asia Bibi's appeal after judge stepped down. |

Pakistani Supreme Court has delayed the hearing of Christian woman Asia Bibi's blasphemy case, after a member of the bench recused himself from the case.

Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman said that he could not preside over the trial because he was earlier involved in prosecution of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's murderer, implying that there was an implicit conflict of interest in his hearing of Bibi's case.

Governor Taseer had publicly come out in support of Bibi, and advocated for reform in the blasphemy law. He was murdered by his own bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri, who was subsequently hanged. His capital punishment was seen as a progressive step by the liberals in the country, but it provoked street protests led by fundamentalists.

The court's three-member bench comprised of Justice Rehman, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, and Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

The matter has now been referred to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who will employ a new bench that will not include Justice Rehman.

The hearing has been adjourned indefinitely, and a new date has not been set.

About 3,000 personnel were deployed in Islamabad ahead of the hearing, according to the police.

"Security is very tight in Islamabad all around today. Additional troops have been deployed on checkpoints and city junctions in general. There is also deployment of paramilitary force Rangers and FC [Frontier Corps] on some additional points," a police source told AFP news agency.

Thousands of hardliners in the country have issued death threat against her, publicly saying that they will target her if she is released.

Her family has also went into hiding after they received death threats.

Bibi is being kept in a solitary confinement to protect her from other inmates. Her lawyer, Saif ul Malook, also has received many death threats.

The 51-year-old farm worker has maintained that she never spoke indecently about religion, and that she was accused by her neighbors over personal strife.