Asia Bibi, a 37-year-old Pakistani woman from the village of Ittanwali, was arrested by police on Friday, June 19, 2009. Asia (also called Asia Noreen) is the wife of 50-year-old Ashiq Masih, and their family is one of only three Christian families in a village of 1,500 families.
Many of the local women, including Asia, work on the farm of Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees. During their work, many of the Muslim women have pressured Asia to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. In June, the pressure became especially strong.
On Friday, June 19, there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling them about her faith in Christ. Asia told the Muslim women Christ had died on the cross for sins, then asked them what Mohammad had done for them, according to VOM sources. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammad is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true.”
Upon hearing this, the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from the mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey. Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. She was held at the police station in Nankana city. Christians there urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but police claimed they were under pressure from local Muslim leaders.
Seventeen months after Asia’s arrest, she was convicted of violating subsection C of Pakistan’s 295 blasphemy law - blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad - and was sentenced to death. No Christian in Pakistan has ever been executed under the blasphemy law, but in several cases, extremists have murdered Christians after their release from prison. Asia’s conviction and death sentence have brought international attention to the country’s blasphemy laws. Christians have called for Asia’s release and for a repeal of the laws, while extremists in Pakistan continue to demand that she be executed.
The Voice of the Martyrs urges Christians around the world to pray for Asia Bibi and her family.
On Oct. 31, 2018 at 9 a.m. Pakistani time, Pakistan's Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi. The justices deferred their decision for nearly three weeks before swiftly announcing Asia's acquittal and immediate release.
Appeal Heard Soon by Top Judge - April 2018
Asia Bibi’s appeal will be heard soon, according to Pakistan’s top judge. Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar said the court would take up her case soon. He also said he will preside over the case personally, and he ordered police protection for Asia’s lawyer. The hearing could happen as soon as tomorrow (April 27), and her lawyer said he hoped it would be scheduled in the next couple of weeks. The Chief Justice also said all criminal appeals would be decided by July.
Asia Healthy and in Good Spirits - Feb. 2018
VOM staff spoke with Asia Bibi’s lawyer this week, and he reported that she is healthy and in good spirits in the Multan jail. She’s alone in the prison, and a female prison guard is with her at all times, both to keep watch over her and to provide security for her. Her lawyer reports that he is working with the court registrar to fix a new hearing date for her.
Supreme Court Hearing Delayed - Oct. 2016
This morning, the scheduled court hearing for Asia Bibi was once again delayed, when one of the presiding judges recused himself. Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman stated a conflict of interest.
Thousands of police had been deployed in Islamabad in anticipation of the hearing, as many Islamists threatened to riot if Asia’s death sentence was overturned. For her safety, Asia was not in the courtroom, but her husband and various supporters were, including VOM staff. As of today, a new date has not been set.
A Year Later, No Change - July 2016
A year after Asia Bibi’s death sentence was overturned, she remains in prison on charges of blasphemy.
In July 2015, the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned her death sentence and ordered a full review of her case. However, twelve months later no further progress has been made. Asia Bibi’s husband and two daughters continue to hope she will be released. The family continues to get threats from Muslim militants.
Lower Court Decisions Suspended - July 22, 2015
Good News for Asia Bibi: Yesterday, a three-member panel of judges suspended the decision of previous courts and stopped implementation of the death penalty. The next stop is complete review by the Supreme Court, and the court will make a decision on the case. A date for the new hearing has not yet been announced.
A VOM worker in Pakistan wrote, “By the grace of God, this is a big achievement… This is an answer to the prayers of people around the world.”
Trial Hearing Scheduled - July 2015
BREAKING NEWS: The first hearing in Pakistan's Supreme Court on the appeal of Asia Bibi's conviction for blasphemy and resulting death sentence will be held July 22, at 9 a.m. in Lahore.
Asia Remains on Death Row - July 2015
Asia Bibi remains on death row more than six year after she was arrested. According to her lawyer, her legal team is ready to present her case before Pakistan’s Supreme Court, but the court is busy.
When VOM workers spoke with Asia’s husband, Ashiq, on July 6, he told them Asia is in good health. While stories have circulated that Asia is unwell, Ashiq said they were untrue. She remains at Multan jail, and she was happy to see her two daughters during the visit. Ashiq told VOM workers, “Whenever I go visit, she requests prayer from the brothers and sisters who are helping her.”
Asia Bibi’s Appeal Denied - Oct. 16, 2014
Asia Bibi’s appeal was denied by the court on Oct. 16, and her death sentence for blasphemy has been upheld by the Lahore High Court. Her attorneys have 30 days to file an appeal with the Supreme Court in Islamabad, and the appeal process will likely take years of more waiting. During the hearing, nearly 2,000 mullahs gathered outside the court to put pressure on the judges. When she learned the outcome, Asia Bibi told VOM contacts, “Please do something. It’s been so long, and I want to be with my children.”
Hearing Postponed at Husband's Request - 9/9/2014
A court hearing for Asia Bibi yesterday (Sept. 9, 2014) was postponed again, but this time at the request of her husband, Ashiq Masih. Ashiq submitted the application for adjournment because his private attorney was not present, though Asia’s legal team was there. Though the judge was ready to hear the case, the hearing will be postponed until Oct. 16, 2014. The Pakistan Christian Post reported that the judge issued an order saying that the Oct. 16 hearing would be final and there would be no other adjournment.
Appeal Delayed for Fifth Time - May 2014
Asia Bibi was due to appeal her death sentence for blasphemy on May 27, but just like the last four occasions, the hearing was cancelled. No new date was set.
Hearing Postponed for Fourth Time – April 2014
For the fourth time this year, a court hearing for Asia Bibi has been postponed. Asia has been waiting in limbo for years since her June 2009 arrest while her case drags through the appeals process — and multiple delays. Hearings set for Feb. 14, March 17, March 26 and now April 14 have all been postponed for various reasons. No future trial date has been set.
Pray for Asia Bibi Hearing
Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death on a blasphemy conviction, is scheduled to appear in court on March 26 for an appellate hearing. An earlier court appearance, scheduled for March 17, was postponed because of the absence of one of two presiding judges. Pakistani law requires that two judges be present for all court proceedings in death penalty cases. Please pray for Asia Bibi as well as her husband and two daughters. Pray also for authorities involved in the case; they face numerous pressures.
Asia's Husband Visits Once a Month - October 2013
Since Asia was transferred to a new prison, her husband has been able to visit her once a month. It’s an expensive, arduous journey for him, but it is an encouraging time for both of them. Asia’s two daughters have not yet been able to make the trip, but VOM is arranging to have them visit as soon as their school schedules allow.
Asia Transferred to a New Prison
Asia Bibi was transferred to a new prison in June, leaving her five hours away from her family. She was previously only an hour away. Her husband, Ashiq, met her on June 6, 2013. She again requested prayer, and told her husband she's been sick and in a lot of pain. Asia continues to await word on her appeal against her blasphemy sentence.