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    » 11/23/2010, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Asia Bibi is innocent, minorities minister says in report to President Zardari

    Jibran Khan

    The report is set to be given today to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who could grant a pardon in the near future. Religious parties threaten street protests around the country if the woman is freed.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) – Federal Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti will present Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari with a report on Asia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy by a court in early November after more than a year in prison. “Innocent” is the conclusion of the minister’s investigation. “I will hopefully submit my report to the president on Wednesday and recommend to him to grant pardon to Asia Bibi,” The Dawn quoted him as saying.

    The situation is tense in and around Ferozewala this morning when a private channel broadcast news about the imminent release of the accused Christian woman. People gathered near the district prison in Sheikhupura to find out whether the information was true or not. Prison officials denied the claim, saying that Asia Bibi was still in her cell.

    Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AsiaNews that the president would vet the request for clemency when it arrived.

    “Requests for clemency come to the president through appropriate channels. The request will be examined once it is received. For now, I cannot comment on the issue,” he said.

    In Nankana, local lawyers have decided to go on strike as a sign of protest against a statement made by Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who said that Asia Bibi was innocent.

    The lawyers held a meeting, chaired by District Bar Association President Shahid Bhatti, passing a unanimous resolution in which they warned the government not to release the Christian woman. As far they are concerned, the woman’s trial was free and fair.

    After examining the trial and the evidence presented, Pakistan’s minorities minister and the country’s human rights organisations disagree.

    By contrast, Pakistan’s religious parties are putting pressure on the president not to grant Bibi a pardon. They have threatened street protests across the country if President Zardari signed the clemency petition.

    At present, as the Christian woman’s fate still hangs in the balance, the AsiaNews campaign to free her continues. So far, some 4,500 people have sent an e-mail of support to the address salviamoasiabibi@asianews.it.

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    See also

    24/11/2010 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi report to Zardari, but Islamist parties threaten Minister Bhatti
    Islamist parties are turning the Bibi case in a weapon against the government. Reports that she has already been released have been denied. Minorities Affairs minister is convinced that a pardon will be granted shortly. Bhatti says that extremists have threatened him.

    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.

    04/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Bhatti funeral: Christians angry when worshippers and relatives denied access to church
    Police seal off church after Prime Minister Gilani enters the building. Ordinary worshippers and relatives of the slain minister are kept outside. Christians react with outrage, close ranks around the family. The bishop of Islamabad says he lost a “son”. Speaking to AsiaNews, he blames the Interior minister for the minister’s death. Bhatti is laid to rest in Khushpur with thousands in attendance, including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

    06/02/2009 PAKISTAN
    Minorities minister in favour of UN commission on Bhutto’s assassination
    Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, says the country is duty-bound to find organisers and perpetrators of the assassination of the former Pakistani prime minister. UN commission will have three members. Last year the Pakistan People’s Party rejected the conclusions reached by a team of experts sent by Scotland Yard.

    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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