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    » 03/15/2014, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Asia Bibi’s appeal to be heard by Lahore High Court



    After more than four years in prison, sentenced to death without trial for "blasphemy", the Pakistani Christian will appear before High Court judges in two days time. The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, which has taken up her case, appeals to the court to "not give in to pressure from fundamentalists and make sure that justice wins out”.

    Lahore ( AsiaNews) - After more than four years in prison, Lahore High Court judges will hear Asia Bibi's appeal on March 17.  The Pakistani Christian was sentenced to death without trial on the basis of the notorious "blasphemy law". A mother of five, Asia Bibi was arrested in 2009 on charges of insulting Muhammad and then sentenced to death. The international community, the Catholic Church and several human rights organizations vigorously protested against this decision, which will now be analyzed by the Lahore High Court.

    The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement - a group that provides legal assistance to members of minorities in Pakistan and also Asia Bibi - confirms the appeal. The director of the Pakistani branch, Joseph Francis, states that he is hopeful that if there is no pressure on the judges by the extremists and the case is handled with care, consideration, and due diligence with the judges being left free to take their decision, her conviction will be overturned.

    Nasir Saeed, from the British section, is less positive.  He says that it is "not going to be easy" for the judges as it is a very high profile case and the whole world will be watching.  He adds: "I pray that God will fill the hearts of the judges with boldness and courage and not allow fear to rule. I also hope that they follow the international norms and keep only justice in the forefront when reaching a decision".

    The Christian mother of five children, was sentenced to death in November 2010 based on the "black law" and has been awaiting the outcome of her appeal since then, locked in solitary confinement in a women's prison in Sheikhupura (Punjab).  Many figures have campaigned for her release including the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer (pictured right with Asia Bibi ) and Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Religious Minorities: both were murdered at the hands of Islamic extremists. The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also launched an appeal for Asia Bibi's release, as the women has physically and morally suffered in her long imprisonment.

    The High Court will have to rule on the "crime" committed by Asia Bibi , that of drinking a glass of water from a well owned by a Muslim. She was accused of "infecting" the source which led to an argument with other women, and, finally, the charge of having "insulted the prophet Muhammad".

     

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    See also

    30/11/2010 PAKISTAN
    Lahore High Court to issue date for Asia Bibi’s appeal
    President Zardari’s legal expert says the woman was convicted without been able to present her side of the story. “Some people are trying to politicise the matter and create a gap between the judiciary and the government,” a presidential spokesman says. The AsiaNews online petition on behalf of Asia Bibi and against the blasphemy law continues.

    16/10/2014 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi's sentence is heart breaking, may the world pray for her, says Islamabad bishop
    After five postponements, the High Court upholds the death penalty for the Christian woman, who has become a symbol of the fight against blasphemy. Her lawyers vow to take her case to the Supreme Court. Heartbroken by the sentence, Islamabad bishop calls for prayers. On Sunday, events are being organised across the country to show solidarity towards Asia Bibi.

    25/11/2010 PAKISTAN
    No news about Asia Bibi’s fate as her release might take longer
    Her petition for clemency has not yet been filed. Some believe she should appeal first to the Lahore High Court, then the Supreme Court. Cardinal Tauran arrives in Pakistan today.

    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.”



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