Asia Bibi's appeal hearing on death sentence delayed again

Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi is facing death for blasphemy

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, has had her appeal hearing delayed for the third time.

A hearing that had been due to take place last month was rescheduled for today.  However, the British Pakistani Christian Alliance (BPCA) reports that today's hearing has now been deferred.

It is the third time that Bibi has had her appeal hearing postponed to another date.

Bibi was accused of blasphemy after a row with Muslim colleagues in 2009.  She was sentenced to death the following year and spent the last few years in prison as her appeal makes slow progress through the courts.

Bibi is the first woman in recent history to be sentenced to death by hanging in Pakistan. 

Although no death sentence for blasphemy has been carried out in Pakistan, defendants face years in prison awaiting the outcome of lengthy appeals and even if they are released, they are at risk of being murdered by extremists. 

Relatives are also at serious risk of violence and Bibi's family remain in hiding as a result of death threats. 

In 2011, Pakistani politicians Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer were murdered after speaking out on Bibi's behalf. 

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the BPCA, said: "I feel for Asia Bibi, her confidence of ever seeing justice must be waning.

"Expectations of justice and being reunited with her family grow as the trial dates near, each deferment simply shatters the fragile hope she maintains.

"If the courts are incapable of justice then more focus should be spent on challenging Pakistan's president to enact his powers of official pardon."