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    » 03/14/2012, 00.00

    PAKISTAN - UNITED NATIONS

    Christian woman arrested for blasphemy as petition goes to UN on Asia Bibi's behalf



    Fifty activists and intellectuals make an appeal for her release to the government of Pakistan at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Signatories slam poor prison conditions and abuses based on the 'black law'. Meanwhile, another case unfolds in Lahore where a 26-year-old woman is charged for refusing to convert to Islam.

    Geneva (AsiaNews) - On the day that another young woman is accused of blasphemy, 50 human rights activists and prominent figures, including a former president of the UN General Assembly, appealed to the Pakistani government for Asia Bibi's release.

    The Christian mother of five has been on death row since November 2010 convicted on the basis of the 'black law', waiting in the isolation ward of the Sheikhupura Women's Prison in Punjab for her appeal to be heard.

    Muslim extremists last year murdered Punjab Governor Punjab Salman Taseer and Federal Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti because they had called for her release.

    Pope Benedict XVI also pleaded on behalf of Asia Bibi, who is physically and morally exhausted from her long imprisonment.

    The United Nations Human Rights Council is currently meeting at the UN headquarters at the Palace of Nations in Geneva (Switzerland) until 23 March.

    France 24 journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet yesterday presented the petition on Asia Bibi's behalf. She is the author of Blasphéme (Blasphemy), a book that relates Asia Bibi's story. Afterwards she spoke to 400 activists gathered for the Geneva Summit of Human Rights.

    The former president of the United Nations General Assembly in 2002-2003 Jan Kavan, former prisoner of conscience and survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre Yang Jianli, New Hope Foundation President Christina Fu and Vanee Meisinger, of the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association of Thailand, are among the petition signatories.

    The latter mentions the "crime" Asia Bibi (pictured here with two of her children) is supposed to have committed. It all began when she drank a glass of water from a well owned by a Muslim. This led to accusations that she had contaminated the well followed by a discussion among women workers that ended with charges against Asia Bibi of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

    The petition also describes the poor conditions in which the prisoners is forced to live, a "windowless cell, where she can touch both walls by stretching out her two arms."

    Lastly, the signatories note that the 'black law' has led to all sorts of abuses as it is used against business rivals or members of ethnic and religious minorities.

    By way of conclusion, the petition appeals to "the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to free Asia Bibi."

    In the meantime, another young Christian woman has been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.

    Police in the district of Bahawalnagar, Lahore, charged Shamim, 26, the mother of a five-month baby girl, with insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

    The alleged incident occurred on 28 February of this year and became public yesterday when she was taken into custody by police.

    According to her family, Shamim was unjustly accused because she refused to convert to Islam. The accusations came from relatives who had recently converted.

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    See also

    15/03/2012 PAKISTAN
    Lahore: fear and angst among relatives of a woman arrested for blasphemy
    Shamim Masih has been in custody for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Local sources say she is being punished for refusing to convert to Islam. Her relatives are keeping silent for fear of retaliation. For Islamabad bishop, this is another case of abuse against Christians using the 'black law'.

    20/04/2011 PAKISTAN
    Candles for Asia Bibi for faith shall set her free, says Islamabad bishop
    Prayers and special Masses are being said in Pakistan and around the world for the 45-year-old Christian woman, sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. Meanwhile, Arif Masih and his family are safe; he had been arrested on blasphemy charges and later released. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said he was in good conditions and that he did not experience any violence in prison. Another attack is carried out against a Christian in Mardan.

    03/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Bhatti assassination: funeral tomorrow in Punjab as Muslims condemn the murder
    Pakistan’s Minority Affairs minister will be laid to rest in his native village. Hundreds of people protest in Islamabad, setting tyres on fire and shouting slogans. Muslim religious leaders and scholars deplore the “brutal murder”. The press slams a weak government, incapable of stopping the violence.

    07/01/2013 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: Christians remember Salman Taseer and his courageous stance against blasphemy
    Lahore priest slams murderer's hero status. In fighting against the 'black law', Punjab governor gave his life for Asia Bibi and minorities. The fate of his son, seized by an extremist group in August 2011, is still uncertain.

    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.



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