Pakistani woman spared blasphemy execution
[Editor's note: May 5 2011. This story was published in the SCO in November 2010 and is NOT recently published as Google News suggested this week.]
Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, has been freed. She was released today after receiving a pardon by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and has gone into hiding over fears for her safety.
The 45-year-old mother has been in prison since June 2009. She was found guilty of blasphemy despite there being no evidence that she committed the crime and her repeated denial of the charges laid against her. Ms Bibi was sentenced to death on November 8 this year by judge Naveed Iqbal.
Ms Bibi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by Muslim field workers following a dispute over their different faiths. When she was asked to bring a cup of water to one of them, the women refused to drink from it, saying that it had been touched by a Christian and was therefore ‘unclean.’ Her conviction and sentence caused an international outcry and shone a spotlight on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Pope Benedict XVI joined world leaders in appealing for Ms Bibi’s release.
Nasir Saeed, a spokesman from CLAAS, which provides free legal assistance to Pakistani Christians, said his organisation were delighted by the news of her freedom.
“This is the only acceptable outcome to what has been a travesty of justice from the outset,” he said. “Asia Bibi should never have been charged with blasphemy, let alone found guilty and sentenced to death. The ordeal faced by her and her family is unimaginable to most people outside of Pakistan who are largely unaware of the abuse and discrimination faced by the tiny Christian minority there.
“The blasphemy laws smack in the face of democracy and human rights and only reinforce the notion that Christians and other religious minorities in the country are somehow inferior and less human. We are relieved and overjoyed at Asia Bibi’s release but so long as the blasphemy laws remain in place there is no telling when another innocent Christian will face being executed because of something they said.”
Pic: Female relatives of Asia Bibi campaigning for her release with her photograph