04/14/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Lahore: third postponement in Asia Bibi's appeal as Islamist threats against judges continue

by 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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