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    » 07/03/2014, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    As Asia Bibi's health worsens, Christian and Muslim activists call for her release

    Jibran Khan

    Her family and lawyers report that her psychological and physical state is worsening. A priest in Lahore confirms that the Church is concerned and praying for her conditions. Her lawyers submit a petition to get her appeal trial set. Muslim activist says it is time for justice.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) - "We strongly condemn the attitude of the judiciary. Bibi has suffered enough, as has her family. It is time for justice to be done, and she should receive the necessary care. The courts must immediately address her case," said Akeel Ali Mehdi, a Muslim human rights activist who spoke to AsiaNews about the plight of the Christian mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy and has been waiting for years to appeal her conviction.

    Fr Ilyas John, a priest and an activist from the Archdiocese of Lahore, shares those concerns. He confirmed that her psychological and physical health was rapid deteriorating, and called for immediate medical care.

    He added that the Church was concerned and praying for Asia Bibi as well as Sawan Masih, a jailed young man who was sentenced to death on the basis of the "black law".

    On death row and solitary confinement for security reasons since November 2010, Asia Bibi has long been a symbol of the fight against blasphemy.

    In 2011, Islamic extremists killed Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Minority Affairs Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, for coming to her defence.

    Pakistani Christians have promoted days of fasting and praying for her release, an initiative adhered to by some Muslims.

    Recently, the Court of Appeal of Lahore repeatedly postponed her appeal trial, using delaying tactics and legal loopholes of various types, Bibi's lawyers said.

    The latest incident took place in late May, when Asia Bibi's case disappeared without any reason from the list of hearings.

    Local sources said that the court is trying to avoid the burden of ruling in this case, as orders from higher up push to postpone the verdict.

    Lawyers Chaudhry Sardar Khan and Sardar Mushtaq Gill filed a new petition to have her appeal trial's date set.

    Civil society groups and various political leaders, not just Christian, have backed her cause through awareness campaigns and efforts to obtain her release.

    The petition submitted to the authorities refers to her rapidly deteriorating "psychological and physical" health, a situation confirmed by relatives who met her in recent weeks.

    The Interior Ministry reported that Bibi has the right to two medical visits per month. Prison administrators claim that medical reports about her poor health are phoney.

    However, defence lawyers and family have sounded the alarm again with regards to her conditions, asking for greater medical care, along with a set date for the appeal process.

    With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia.

    About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).

    Scores of violent incidents have occurred in recent years, against entire communities (Gojra in 2009, and Joseph Colony, Lahore, in March 2013), places of worship (Peshawar, September last year) and individuals ( Sawan Masih, Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih and Robert Fanish Masih, who died in prison), often perpetrated under the pretext of the country's blasphemy laws.

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    See also

    16/11/2010 PAKISTAN
    Bishop of Islamabad, Asia Bibi case "a disgrace" . A campaign by AsiaNews
    Mgr. Rufin Anthony the blasphemy law “must be repealed; it does not fit with 21st century world " Petitions to save Asia Bibi and repeal the blasphemy law in Pakistan, Italy, USA, India, France. Within hours, the AsiaNews site received over 500 signatures. Even cloistered monasteries prayfor Asia Bibi. A text to send to President Asif Zardari.

    23/07/2015 PAKISTAN
    For Muslims and Christians, Asia Bibi’s misfortune can be an opportunity to reform the blasphemy laws
    Iftikhar Ahmad, coordinator of South Asia Partnership Pakistan, calls for a "serious discussion" to achieve change. Religious groups are "more powerful" than the state, and laws are being used against the innocent. For Pakistani priest, the justices’ decision sends a "positive signal". Bibi should be released and get compensation for the “psychological harm” she received, Christian activist said.

    22/07/2015 PAKISTAN
    After Supreme Court stays Asia Bibi’s execution and orders new hearing, Paul Bhatti hopes to see her free
    This morning, the Supreme Court ordered a new hearing after staying the execution of the 50-year-old Christian mother of five children. All the records that led to her conviction will be re-examined. A former minister is now “optimistic” that she will be released “in accordance with the law” and that her case will not be “influenced by external elements.”

    20/12/2011 PAKISTAN
    Christmas in prison for Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy
    She appears frail, in poor health. Grateful for prayers and calls for help and support, that she may soon return to embrace her husband and daughters. Despite the suffering, Asia has forgiven her captors and wonders how many more Christian victims will fall beneath the specter of the "black law".

    18/11/2010 PAKISTAN
    Some 2,500 people sign petition against Asia Bibi’s “disgraceful” sentence
    Our appeal is picked up in Hungary and Eastern Europe. Punjab governor calls Bibi’s case “disgraceful”, an “embarrassment for Pakistan”. Pakistan’s Minorities minister says the sentence will not be carried out and that the woman can appeal the verdict.



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