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  • » 05/07/2007, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Martha Bibi, Christian baselessly accused of blasphemy, is released

    Qaiser Felix

    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.

    Kasur (AsiaNews) - Martha Bibi, a Christian accused without proof of blasphemy was released on bail on 3 May last. Fazal-e-Miran, a judge of the High Court, ordered her release against the payment of 100,000 rupees (around 1,500 euros).

    Lawyers of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), which followed her case, said the 40-year-old woman was “physically worn out but overjoyed that she survived. She has not stopped thanking God for allowing justice to triumph.”

    Martha Bibi, who used to live in the village of Kot Nanak Singh, was accused on 22 January last of making derogatory remarks against the Koran and of “defiling the sacred name of the prophet Muhammad”. She was charged under Article 295C of the Pakistani Criminal Code – the notorious “blasphemy law” – that stipulates very heavy punishments (up to the death penalty) for those who offend the Prophet or the sacred texts of Islam.

    In reality, according to local witnesses, the charges were brought by Muslim contractors who did not want to pay for materials supplied to a construction site by Bibi and her husband, a bricklayer.

    The chairman of APMA, Shahbaz Bhatti (with Bibi in the photo) told AsiaNews: “This case and the release order show once again that the blasphemy law only serves as a means to settle personal disputes, always to the detriment of minorities. This is why it should be completely abolished.”

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    See also

    16/02/2007 PAKISTAN
    Fear, violence, ostracism face innocent “blasphemers of Islam”
    Although they have been released by the court, survivors of the blasphemy law remain subject to social isolation and poverty because they are suspected of having offended Islam. Officials force Christians to convert in prison. Those who remain strong in the faith risk death at the hands of extremists.

    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.

    12/02/2007 PAKISTAN
    Christian woman accused of blasphemy without evidence still in prison
    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.

    29/11/2006 PAKISTAN
    Naseem Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, free after nine months
    The 30-year-old woman, who is mentally disabled, was arrested after person or persons unknown reported her for allegedly desecrating an Islamic image. She is the second person charged with blasphemy to be released in a month.

    07/05/2010 PAKISTAN
    Lahore: Christians accused of blasphemy forced to leave their homes
    Five boys are accused of "desecrating" a banner that was inscribed with Qur‘anic verses. To avoid trial and prevent confessional tensions, all five leave their homes. On 26 May, Martha Bibi goes on trial. She is 45-year-old mother of six accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad. She could get the death penalty.



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