A group of influential Pakistani clerics issued a statement Oct. 11, calling for the execution of Christian woman Asia Bibi who was sentenced to death for blasphemy.
The statement by Sunni Ittehad Council, an umbrella group of Sunni clerics, came just days before Pakistan’s top court in Lahore was scheduled on Oct. 13 to take up Bibi’s final appeal against the death sentence. However, on Oct. 13 one of the three judges hearing Bibi’s appeal withdrew from the bench, leading to the case’s adjournment until Oct. 18.
The latest demand for Bibi’s execution was backed by 150 clerics in the council.
“As per Quran and Sunnah, blasphemy is punishable by death only,” the statement said, condemning the government for failing to execute Bibi despite her being convicted six years ago.
The clerics called on the government to fulfill its religious and constitutional obligation by hanging all convicted blasphemers.
They also warned the authorities against any attempt to free Bibi and let her flee the country.
“If any attempt is made to send the blasphemer abroad, millions of faithful Muslims will take to the streets against the government,” the statement said.
“Any relief to Bibi will be contrary to teachings of the Quran and Sunnah,” it added.
The Catholic mother of five children was arrested in June 2009 after being accused by her fellow Muslim farm workers of insulting Prophet Muhammad, a charge she strongly denies.
After her trial, which lasted for one and a half years, Bibi was sentenced to death in November 2010.
Human rights campaigners say the blasphemy law is often used to settle personal scores or as a way to target religious minorities.