Monday, November 22, 2010

Under Pressure!! Pakistan Christian mother-of-five innocent of blasphemy: Official

She might have to be offered asylum. The last person to miraculously get off his blasphemy charge ~ was shot dead outside of the courthouse. Earlier this year a Christian husband and wife, who were convicted of blasphemy, on the grounds that they touched the Koran with unwashed hands [two points: they did not carry out the Muslim ritual washing and two, as Christians are automatically deemed unclean], managed to escape the death penalty, when their neighbor whose goods they were storing as a favor [hence coming into contact with his Koran], testified in court on their behalf. But the persecution lawyers, where extremely unhappy, when it looked as though they might be vindicated, and openly threatened them in the court, telling the couple, they would be killed no matter what the outcome! The couple received 25 years each, in March 2010.

A Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam is innocent, a government minister investigating the case said Monday, adding he was hopeful she would be granted a presidential pardon and be freed.

The sentence against Asia Bibi has called new attention to Pakistan's blasphemy law, which critics say is used to persecute minorities, fan religious extremism and settle personal vendettas.

Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, has already spent 1 1/2 years in jail.

A court sentenced her Nov. 8 to hang after convicting her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

She says she was falsely accused by a group of village Muslim women angry with her after a dispute over whether they could share the same water bowl.

Pope Benedict XVI appealed last week for her release, and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has asked for a review of the facts of the case, raising the possibility of a presidential pardon.

Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who is preparing the report for Zardari, said his preliminary investigations indicate that Bibi was wrongly accused.

"I am convinced that she is innocent and she was wrongly sentenced to death," Bhatti said.

A provincial official delivered a petition from Bibi for clemency to the president's office on Monday, Bhatti said. He said he will submit his own report to Zardari on Wednesday, and then the president will make a decision.

"I am optimistic about her release," he said.

Asia's lawyer has filed an appeal with a higher court in the southern city of Lahore, but she could be freed by a presidential pardon at any time.

Pakistan's Christians, who make up less than 5 percent of the Muslim-majority country's 175 million people, are frequently the targets of accusers invoking the law, Bhatti said.


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