Asia Bibi's Lawyers Request 'In-Prison' Appeals Hearing

Legal representatives of Asia Bibi have requested that the hearing of her appeal take place within prison walls, fearing the possibility of a summary execution if she were to make an appearance in the High Court of Lahore.

The Pakistani Christian mother of five, who is the first woman to be handed the death sentence under the country's blasphemy law for allegedly speaking ill of Muslim Prophet Muhammad, will begin appealing her case as early as the end of January.

Haroon Masih, the director of Masihi Foundation, labeled Bibi's presence in the courtroom of Lahore as "highly ill-advised," reported Fides News Agency.

"It would expose her to shooting by radicals, as happened to the brothers Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel, accused of blasphemy and murdered during the trial before the court in July 2010 in Faisalabad," he warned.

Regardless of whether the request is approved, Masihi Foundation, the only organization offering legal assistance to Bibi, intends to arrange a private convoy for her if it becomes necessary to leave the compound of her prison cell.

Director Haroon Masih warned that "even this transfer implies grave dangers for her safety."

"Given recent events, we do not trust highly in the security services offered by the State, composed of Muslim men," he told Fides news. "The terrorists may strike at every opportunity, or infiltrate the guards that should be protecting her."

Authorities at Punjab Home Department ordered her to be transferred from Sheikhpura Prison to Multan Prison, a women-only facility, within seven days, following a string of death threats by extremists against Bibi's life, AsiaNews reported on Tuesday.

"We must do everything we can to protect Asia's life," Masih urged. "We hope that, given the national and international mobilization, Asia will soon regain her freedom, given her innocence."

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