|The entrance to the prison where Asia Bibi is being held|
Recently, Asia and her husband, Ashiq Masih, were able to share her story with Compass Direct at the jail northwest of Lahore, Punjab Province, where Asia is being held. Here are excerpts of her interview.
“I don’t know why – when I walked into court that day, I just knew,” Asia said of the day that she received the death sentence. “And when the judge announced my death sentence, I broke down crying and screaming. In the entire year that I have spent in this jail, I have not been asked even once for my statement in court. Not by the lawyers and not by the judge. After this, I have lost hope in any kind of justice being given to me.”
Asia said the triggering incident resulted from a “planned conspiracy” to “teach her a lesson,” as villagers in Ittanwali, near Nankana Sahib about 75 kilometers from Lahore, resented her and her family because of a few mishaps.
“What my village people have accused me of is a complete lie,” Asia said. “I had previously had a row over a trivial issue of water running out of my house onto the street, and a man called Tufail verbally abused me. On June 14, when I was out picking falsas [a type of berry] with about 30 women, they again asked me to convert to Islam.”
Asia said the women of the village frequently asked her to renounce Christianity while they worked in the fields, and that she refused each time. “This time, too, I said that I saw no reason why I should leave my own religion. They then asked me about Jesus Christ, and I told them to go and ask the local mullah and not to bother me with those questions.”
Meantime, one of the women asked her for water, she said. After she had fetched it, the others told the woman not to drink water brought by an “untouchable” and “dirty woman,” Asia said. “I asked them if Christians were not human …why the discrimination? This annoyed them, and they started verbally abusing me. We were soon engaged in a heated argument.”
Asia said that five days later, a mob led by Qari (one who has memorized the Qur’an) Muhammad Saalim burst upon her after some of the women told him about the incident in the fields. The mob pressured her to admit that she had blasphemed.
“They have been saying that I confessed to my crime, but the fact is that I said I was sorry for any word that I may have said during the argument that may have hurt their feelings,” Asia said.
Police arrived as they were beating her and took Asia into custody, where they registered a case under Section 295-C of the blasphemy laws against her based on the complaint of the imam.
“They [police] registered a false complaint, because the complainant [Saalim] was never present at the scene,” said Asia.
Asia said she has been heartbroken and shattered since the conviction. “How can an innocent person be accused, have a case in court after a false FIR [First Information Report], and then be given the death sentence, without even once taking into consideration what he or she has to say?” she asks.
Asia’s lawyers filed an appeal against the Nankana sessions court’s verdict in the Lahore High Court on November 12, and the court is likely to take up the case soon.
Sohail Johnson of the Sharing Life Ministry, which has been following the case from the onset, said authorities may have been aware that the sensitive nature of the case would instantly bring it into public light.
Asia said she has not lost faith in Jesus. “He will rescue me from this fake case, and I will return home – please ask everyone to pray for me.”
To read the full story, visit Compass Direct online.