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    » 04/14/2014, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Lahore: third postponement in Asia Bibi's appeal as Islamist threats against judges continue

    Jibran Khan

    High Court began proceedings this morning, only to adjourn the hearing. A new date for a case that has lasted for years might be announced tomorrow. Optimistic, the defendant's lawyers hope to see her walk free soon. However, fundamentalist groups continue to make threats. For Lahore priest, "the situation in Pakistan is getting worse by the day, not only for minorities, but especially for women and girls."

    Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Appeal proceedings have been delayed again in the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy.

    Lahore High Court Judges Sardar Tariq Masood and Abdul Sami Khan adjourned the case shortly after the hearing begun and arguments presented.

    Court sources said that a new date for the appeal is expected tomorrow in a case that has dragged on without any progress for quite some time.

    For several months, extremist groups have also been making threats against the judges in order to pressure them to confirm the death penalty imposed by the lower court.

    However, the woman's lawyers said they remain confident and hopeful that the High Court will soon overturn her conviction and let her go.

    In recent days, Pakistani Christians have promoted days of fasting and prayer on behalf of Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih, both of whom are innocent but sentenced to death under the infamous "black law".

    Asia Bibi, who has been on death row since November 2010 held under solitary confinement on security grounds, has become a symbol of the fight against blasphemy.

    Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, and Federal Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were killed in 2011 for coming to her defence.

    Sawan Masih, a 26-year-old Christian from Lahore, was convicted recently by a lower court on false charges as a result of a personal dispute with the person who reported him.

    It is sad "to see how the situation in Pakistan is getting worse by the day, not only for minorities, but especially for women and girls", Fr James Chand, from the Archdiocese of Lahore, told AsiaNews. "Let us continue to pray for Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih," he added.

    Fr Arthur Nat, a priest from Central Punjab, joined his appeal, calling for "a day of fasting and prayer on Wednesday."

    Meanwhile, a new case of child sexual assault has been reported. Yesterday, a 12-year-old girl was raped by an Islamic cleric in a Punjab mosque.

    Witnesses said that the imam sent students home, asking the girl to stay. He then assaulted her ​​with the help of four boys.

    The girl's family plans to report the crime, but it appears that the religious leader has already fled the area without leaving a trace.

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    See also

    17/04/2013 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad: Muslim leaders defend young Christian against false blasphemy accusations
    Philip Masih was accused of removing a poster on a shop wall by a Muslim neighbour who got armed men together to punish the alleged blasphemer. The police and the authorities successfully prevented a violent escalation. The two had argued before and the Muslim man wanted revenge.

    26/11/2012 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani (and Christian) women lead the defence of minority rights
    Romana Bashir has dedicated her life to interfaith harmony and women's education in order to change the country's mindset. Today she is a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Women's presence in political institutions and civil society is "a positive sign".

    24/10/2011 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi prays for freedom but judges are hostage of fundamentalists
    Ashiq Masih saw his wife in prison. She is frail but “high in spirit”. Prison guard is suspended for having “hot words” with Asia Bibi as prison security is tightened. The family continues to hope for her release, but judges are threatened by Muslim extremists. Pakistan mourns the death of Begum Nusrat Bhutto.

    19/08/2011 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: Christian family held slave to a Muslim landowner for 30 years
    The father had signed a loan for his daughter's wedding. Interest rates of up to 500%, made it impossible to repay the money. So 26 people, including women and children, have lived like modern slaves in ten household of a Muslim. More cases of marriages and forced conversions of Christian girls.

    16/11/2010 PAKISTAN
    Blasphemy law, a sword hanging over our heads
    Asia Bibi’s case is but the latest in a long series of tragedies due to the infamous law, which sows fear in people. The Church of Pakistan is a Church that suffers, but it has a prophetic role to play: “bring hope to an entire people”.



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