08/03/2015, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Asia Bibi’s lawyer speaks out: Pakistani government is solely responsible for situation

by Silent Thinker
AsiaNews interviews Saiful Malook, who is defending the Christian woman on death row on blasphemy charges. The lawyer, a Muslim, says: "People, even judges, say I am crazy to have taken on this case. They say I am an enemy of my own daughters".

Lahore (AsiaNews) - "Many legal requirements have been ignored in the case of Asia Bibi, the only woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan. The authorities must put aside religious sentiments and verify the facts, first. However, they are subject to the influence of religious fundamentalists and do not stop the militants from attacking those accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, or setting fire to their homes", says Saiful Malook, Asia Bibi’s lawyer, speaking exclusively to AsiaNews.

The Supreme Court lawyer , a Muslim, took over the case last October, after the Lahore High Court rejected Asia Bibi’s appeal against the sentence passed by a lower court. Pope Francis blessed the family of the woman, who is in prison since 2010 after being accused of blasphemy. Worldwide, associations and Christian groups breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court blocked the execution and ordered a retrial in late July.

On that day, Saiful Malook had to remain in court for two hours to avoid any possible backlash. The Muslim lawyer has been very cautious since he took over the case on behalf of Salmaan Taseer, the Punjab Governor assassinated by his bodyguard for asking pardon for Asia Bibi.

"I have asked reporters - the lawyer recalls - not to take pictures. I am the father of three daughters. Special security agencies have taught me how to avoid threats when handling similar cases. People, even judges, say I am crazy to have taken over this case. They say I am the enemy of my daughters, handshakes became rarer. I was a proud Vice President of the High Court, but now my acquaintances shake their heads. Religious parties hold grudges against me. "

According to Saiful Malook, the Pakistan government is evading its responsibilities in the case of Asia Bibi, and is solely responsible for her suffering.

"Blasphemy is within the hudud (crimes against God), but none of the judges asked if the State in person or an authorized officer have filed a complaint of blasphemy against Asia. Sharia (Islamic law) says that the accused must confess their crime and all testimonies verified before the trial. All these requirements have been ignored".

However, the lawyer maintain's that the case of Asia Bibi has become highly political. "Hundreds of organizations – he explains - are calling for foreign aid to protect Asia Bibi’s family and give her legal assistance. Her benefactors should stop this trafficking”.

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