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  • » 02/12/2007, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Christian woman accused of blasphemy without evidence still in prison

    Qaiser Felix

    Martha Bibi, arrested on January 22, is in Kasur district prison. Police has not yet started their investigations whilst her family is still in hiding for fear of attacks by extremists.

    Kasur (AsiaNews) – Martha Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy without evidence, is “still unlawfully detained in the Kasur district prison,” whilst her family “remains in hiding fearing attacks from the local Muslim community,” this according to Shahbaz Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA).

    Local Muslims “are putting pressure on the judges. They are saying she cannot be released; otherwise she would be subject to people’s justice,” he added. “What is more, the situation of the local Christian community is going from bad to worse. Everyday, acts of discrimination and violence are inflicted on the few non Muslim families of Kasur.”

    Martha Bibi, from the village of Kot Nanak Singh, was accused on January 22 of making disparaging remarks about the prophet Muhammad and insulting his sacred name. Her husband is a mason with a small building tools rental business that he runs with the help of his wife. They rented out tools to the company building the Sher Rabbani mosque, but the builders have not paid.

    On the morning of January 22 Martha Bibi went to the construction site to collect the money but was refused. So she asked the equipment be returned and tried to retrieve it, but Muhammad Ramzan, Mohammad Akram and Muhammad Dilbar started beating her. Only the action of passer-byes enabled her to get away.

    Later that night the mosque’s imam accused Martha of uttering blasphemous words about the prophet Muhammad and incited Muslims to attack Christians. Martha and her family fled to neighbours to hide. However, the police eventually came and arrested her. She was taken to the Changa Manga police station, where she was charged under Section 295 C of Pakistan’s Penal Code, better known as the blasphemy law, a law that provides for long prison terms as well as the death penalty for anyone who insults the prophet and the sacred texts of Islam.

    For APMA Chairman Bhatti, who has been following the case closely, there are various incongruities with the case.  First of all, “no investigations have been conducted prior to registering a FIR (First Information Report) neither from the alleged accused nor from the petitioner.” This “shows it is a concocted and baseless case and exposes the misuse of this law.” Moreover, “the complainant, Muhammad Dilbar was not present at the time of this incident and his deposition should not be taken into account.”

    APMA “filed a complaint about these abuses and applied for Martha’s release on bail. Even then, she won’t be able to go home where she might be the target of extremists.”

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    See also

    26/01/2007 PAKISTAN
    Another Christian imprisoned for “blasphemy”
    Following an altercation, a man who owed money to a Christian woman accuses her of insulting the prophet Muhammad, an offence that also carries the death penalty. She was taken into custody by the police. Minority rights group blames Islamic extremists for using the law to strike at religious minorities or anyone who dare oppose them.

    07/05/2007 PAKISTAN
    Martha Bibi, Christian baselessly accused of blasphemy, is released
    Fazal-e-Miran, judge of the Lahore High Court, ordered that the woman be released on bail. Physically weakened, she has not stopped thanking God for the triumph of justice. Activists have called once again for the abolition of the blasphemy law.

    02/02/2011 PAKISTAN
    Against judges, Muslim extremists call for Asia Bibi’s death and Mumtaz Qadri’s release
    Fundamentalists are putting more pressure to get the release of the assassin of Salman Taseer, the Punjab Governor who strongly opposed the blasphemy law. The transfer of a Christian woman whose life is in danger has been postponed. Catholic leaders warn that Pakistan is embracing Islamism against the principle of Ali Jinnah.

    17/01/2011 PAKISTAN
    Christian women attacked, publicly humiliated in Lahore based on false blasphemy accusations
    Victims are now in a safe place because of the danger of more violence. A mob of angry Muslims beat and humiliated the two women, who are mother and daughter. The incident was triggered by a domestic dispute between them and the Muslim wife of their son and brother. A Pakistani priest says that unless there is separation between state and religion, Pakistan will slide into civil war.

    20/01/2011 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan government, a disappointment in fight against fundamentalism, says Justice and Peace
    NCJP executive secretary complains about government inaction, which is causing suffering to people. Human rights and full religious freedom are necessary conditions to “guarantee peace in the country”. Prime minister says he will not change blasphemy law. PML-Q leader says government policies are like those of dictator Zia-ul-Haq.



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