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  • » 10/16/2014, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Asia Bibi's sentence is heart breaking, may the world pray for her, says Islamabad bishop

    Jibran Khan

    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.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) - After a hearing that lasted several hours, the Lahore High Court today upheld the death penalty sentence passed by a lower court against Asia Bibi, following her conviction in 2010 on blasphemy charges in 2010. Since then she has been on death row.

    In Pakistan, many civil society groups have expressed solidarity towards the Christian mother of five, as well as strong concern about the court's decision, which came after five postponements.

    Human rights activists and organisations around the world are also demanding justice for a woman who has become a symbol of the struggle against Pakistan's infamous "black law".

    Her lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, the third and final stage in legal proceedings, hoping that the conviction will be overturned.

    Asia Bibi was sentenced to death in November 2010 and since then has been in solitary confinement for security reasons, a symbol of the struggle against blasphemy.

    In 2011, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were both murdered for coming to her defence.

    On several occasions, Pakistani Christians organised days of fasting and prayer for her release, joined by Muslims as well.

    In its ruling, the court upheld the allegations made by two Muslim women who claim to have heard Asia Bibi's blasphemy.

    Speaking to AsiaNews, lawyer Naeem Shakir said, "the court heard the closing arguments and then adjourned". Shortly after, the ruling was announced upholding the "death sentence."

    For Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad/Rawalpindi, the court's decision is "heart breaking".

    In view of the situation, he calls on Christians around the world to "join us for a day of prayer for Asia Bibi and others accused of blasphemy."

    "We will have the day of prayer for the condemned on Sunday," said Fr James Asher, from the Archdiocese of Lahore. "We urge everyone to be a part of it".

    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

    15/03/2014 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”.

    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.

    31/05/2007 PAKISTAN
    Another Christian condemned to death for blasphemy, without any proof
    A Pakistani district court has condemned to Younis Masih, accused of having offended Muhammad and the Koran. His defence lawyer denounces the lack of any proof and police negligence and prepares an appeal.

    16/09/2017 10:37:00 PAKISTAN
    Lahore, Christian condemned to death for 'blasphemy on Whatsapp'

    The sentence was issued on 14 September. Nadeem James was detained in July 2016. A friend accused him of sending a poem that offends Islam. The lawyer will appeal to the High Court. He has received death threats and remains in prison.



    02/12/2010 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi: fears over safety, controversy over stay on pardon
    The lawyers of the Supreme Court to protest stay on pardon by the President. A committee will hear religious and political leaders and experts will present to Parliament proposals to amend the blasphemy laws. Date for the appeal against the death sentence still not set.



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