11/29/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Naseem Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, free after nine months

by Qaiser Felix
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.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Kasur district court released Naseem Bibi, 30, in prison since last March, ruling that she was innocent of any blasphemy charges levelled at her by person or persons unknown, Sohail Johnson, chief coordinator for the Sharing Life Ministry, told AsiaNews. Naseem, who was assisted by the group in her legal defence, is mentally disabled. She was arrested on March 3 after some Muslims stated they saw her urinate against a picture of a Muslim place of worship. Fortunately for her, police intervened quickly to prevent her from being lynched by a mob that had gathered on the site of the alleged incident.

The prosecutor in the case charged her under sections 295-B of the Penal Code, also known as the blasphemy law, which imposes life in prison to anyone found guilty of desecrating Islam's sacred texts. The law also entail lighter sanctions against anyone who "offends the Muslim world". But by and large, the law is used as means to settle private matters at the expense of both Muslims and Christians.

Johnson, who helps people charged with blasphemy, said: "We appreciate the court's decision because this case was concocted. Local police made this false case under the pressure of extremists."

The activist added that this "is the second good news for us in a month after Ranjha Masih was cleared by the Lahore High Court on November 10." Mashi could have been sentenced to an eight-year sentence.

Naseem is married with three children. Now she is free to go home to her small village of Kot Fattah Din, in Kasur district.

"We are thankful," Johnson said, "to all the people who have prayed for prisoners of faith—this happy news is just the answer to their prayers. But they have to continue their prayers because there are many other people who are still in jail for their faith."

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