MPs urge prime minister to order review of Bibi blasphemy case
A letter signed by more than 50 MPs from Westminster has accused the Pakistani Government of allowing a major miscarriage of justice to go unchallenged, and urged that a major case review be carried out into the case of Asia Bibi.
Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death by a Pakistan court for blasphemy after a hearing that outside observers said was riddled with mistakes and anti-Christian bias.
In their letter to the country’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and the Chief Justice, Nasir-Ul-Mulk, the British MPs voice their misgivings over the handling of the original case, the verdict and the subsequent appeal: “We feel strongly that a miscarriage of justice has taken place; that Asia Bibi has been falsely implicated and that the evidence used in her case has been fabricated.
“Asia Bibi has now languished in a prison cell for more than four years, with her case adjourned on multiple occasions, and where even the accusers failed to appear in court.”
The letter was drawn up by MP Rehman Chishti, who has campaigned for the UK to use its influence in Pakistan to secure a case review. “We would urge that this case is heard by the Supreme Court on an urgent basis, taking into account that Asia has already spent four years in custody.
The case should be heard by the full bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice, taking into account the international concerns about this case, as it affects the credibility of Pakistan’s judiciary.
“As friends of Pakistan, we feel this miscarriage of justice is tarnishing Pakistan’s international reputation and we urge you to review this case as a matter of urgency.
“The international community is shocked and saddened at the unfairness of this decision and the treatment that Asia has received under Pakistan’s justice system.
“We feel that this clear miscarriage of justice undermines Pakistan’s GSP Plus status, which expects countries to respect citizens’ basic human rights and religious freedoms.”
Mr Chishti, the Conservative member for Gillingham and Rainham, has raised the issue in the House of Commons, urging Prime Minister David Cameron to use his influence with the Pakistan authorities to secure a full case review.
In his reply Mr Cameron told the House that “we have been pushing the Pakistan Government to amend the blasphemy laws, and I will be speaking to [the Pakistani] Prime Minister.”
Speaking after the debate Chishti said: “The way Asia Bibi has been treated has made a travesty of the justice system and I hope that with this letter, signed by more than 50 MPs, the Pakistan Prime Minister will urgently review this case.”
The MPs backing the letter were drawn from across the political spectrum, and included Mark Durkan, Damian Green and Jim Shannon.