11/17/2010, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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People around the world signing petition to save Asia Bibi

In two days, more than 1,300 people sign a petition launched by AsiaNews to save the life of the Pakistani woman sentenced to death on false blasphemy charges. Hundreds of messages have come in from Spain and Latin America, but also Vietnam, China and Malaysia. Hundreds of women protested yesterday for Asia Bibi against the blasphemy law.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – “Asia Bibi is innocent. Saving her is not a political act, but a moral obligation towards all persecuted Christians,” wrote one reader. “The blasphemy law destroys coexistence and Pakistan’s development,” said another. They are but two of a long list of people who have signed the petition launched by AsiaNews on 15 November on behalf of Asia Bibi (pictured during her trial), the Christian woman sentenced to death in Punjab after she was falsely accused of blasphemy.

So far, some 1,500 people have signed the appeal, which was picked up in Malaysia by the local Catholic weekly newspaper, the Herald. Individuals and news agencies elsewhere have also picked up the story and sent it around the world. Hundreds of messages are coming in from Spain and Latin America, but also Vietnam and China.

Despite the dangers, various organisations like Justice and Peace have organised demonstrations in Pakistan. Various initiatives have also been undertaken to free the woman. Yesterday in Nankana (Punjab), hundreds of women, Christian and Muslim, demonstrated in front of government offices, demanding her immediate release.

“The women of Pakistan are taking action: the case of Asia Bibi nags at our conscience. There is an urgent need to repeal the blasphemy law,” said Saman Wazdani, a Muslim and a human rights activist.

For her, Pakistan’s entire legal system needs retooling. “Trial courts are left to themselves,” she explained. “They have old structures that are not transparent and they often interpret the law incorrectly. We urgently need a comprehensive judicial reform”.

In the meantime, the Conference of the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP), which represents about a third of all religious parties, said it was against repealing the blasphemy law.

For the ulema, the law cannot be touched. Otherwise, they promise to take to the streets to demonstrate, violently if need be, should it be changed or corrected.

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