Pakistan court upholds death penalty for Asia Bibi despite serious legal loopholes in trial

"Blasphemy: The True, Heart-Breaking Story Of The Woman Sentenced To Death Over A Cup Of Water by Asia Bibi" - related by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet (Virago, London, 2012)

“Blasphemy: The True, Heart-Breaking Story Of The Woman Sentenced To Death Over A Cup Of Water by Asia Bibi” – related by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet (Virago, London, 2012)

Pakistani Christian Aasia Bibi had an argument with some coworkers over drinking water in 2009. The argument turned into a religious one and she was accused of blasphemy against Islam. Two politicians have been killed for standing up for her. She was convicted in Nov. 2010 and yesterday her appeal was rejected by the appellate court. Legal arguments in this story, published in Worldwatch Monitor, October 17, 2014, reproduced below (emphasis added). Also see The dangers of ignoring ‘malicious intent’ while accusing of ‘injuring religious sentiments’:

By Asif Aqeel

The first Christian woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws had her appeal rejected by the High Court in Lahore on Thursday.

Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, received the death penalty in 2010 after she allegedly made derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim woman.

While the two women were working together, the Muslim woman had refused water from Noreen on the grounds that it was unclean because it had been handled by a Christian.

The Muslim woman, together with her sister, were the only two witnesses in the case, but the defence failed to convince the appeals judges that their evidence lacked credibility.

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The dangers of ignoring ‘malicious intent’ in allegations of ‘injuring religious sentiments’

Shaheen Dhada, left, and Renu Srinivasan, who were arrested for their Facebook posts, leave a court in Mumbai on Nov 20, 2012. AP photo

Shaheen Dada (left) and Renu Srinivasan were arrested last Monday, seen here leaving a court in Mumbai on Nov 20, 2012. AP photo

Some thoughts on ‘blasphemy’ and the issue of ‘injuring religious sentiments’, in this blog post, which includes ‘Malicious Intent’, an article I wrote for The New Humanist on the blasphemy issue (original article below including references deleted from the published piece for reasons of space). Since then, in a move that was widely welcomed, the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court quashed the First Information Report (FIR) of the “blasphemy” case registered against the minor Christian girl Rimsha Masih. Here is the link to a downloadable PDF copy of the judgment, dated Nov 14, 2012 – IHC verdict on the Rimsha caseContinue reading

Salmaan Taseer: The man who shook a nation awake

Salmaan Taseer: The man who shook a nation awake. Pakistan is awake again. And we have only one man to thank for this. One man who woke us all up in his life and in his death.  Lovely post by Anthony Permal.

Aasia Bibi update: in good health and mental condition. Stop spreading rumours, appeals CLAAS

Aasia Bibi: Praying for relief but in good spirits

“Prison staff is very good and kind to her and they are very much concerned about Aasia’s health and security as well, but due to the wrong news broadcasting the prison staff and prison authorities are feeling hurt,” says an update about Aasia Bibi from Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) Pakistan. (Note: I know several  CLAAS members personally, and have worked with them on blasphemy case fact-findings for the HRCP). Reproduced below, their email of Dec 29, 2011: Continue reading

PPC provisions against those inciting violence, hatred, murder

The mindset promoted by the ‘blasphemy’ laws is again highlighted by the recent case of a doctor in Hyderabad arrested for ‘blasphemy’ because he threw the visiting card of a medical representative (Pfizer employee) named Mohammad Faizan into the dustbin.

I have been in correspondence with Asad Jamal, Advocate Lahore High Court, on possible action against those who make false accusations of blasphemy and incite to murder or violence — we were specifically discussing the Maulana who announced a reward of five lakh rupees for killing  Aasiya Noreen, the Christian woman sentenced by a lower court for blasphemy, whose case is going into appeal before the Lahore High Court. (Asad reminded me that in 1995, a similar ‘reward’ (it was then a million rupees, the value has obviously gone down for such murders, given that people are willing to commit them for free) had been offered for killing the minor Salamat Masih. The Lahore High Court acquitted Salamat and his two co-accused but Manzoor Masih, a co-accused in that case, was shot dead outside the court). He writes: Continue reading

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