The Pakistani Supreme Court appeal hearing on the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death after being accused of committing blasphemy against Islam, has been indefinitely adjourned after one of the judges removed himself based on a possible conflict of interest.
BBC News reports that hundreds of riot police were deployed around the Supreme Court in the capital, Islamabad, fearful of actions by radicals who demand that Bibi be put to death for allegedly insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, something which she denies.
Judge Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman, one of the three judges who was was supposed to hear Bibi’s appeal, recused himself on Thursday from the case.
“I was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salmaan Taseer, and this case is related to that,” Rehman explained, as reported by AFP. The judge was referring to Taseer, the former governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own bodyguard in 2011 for speaking out in support for Bibi.
Persecution watchdog groups have said that the news leaves the Christian mother of five in a great state of uncertainty.
An officer for the British Pakistani Christian Association who was present at the hearing said: “I was present at the hearing and it only took 1 or 2 minutes and the hearing was adjourned. I looked at Ashiq Masih and saw the anguish and anger in his eyes. As he left the court he was visibly shaken by yet another postponement in the exceedingly long legal saga of Asia Bibi,” he said, referring to Bibi’s husband.
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