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Pakistan’s shame to be heard in Supreme Court

LAHORE (SE): A young Catholic woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws in 2010, has had a date set for her appeal to be heard in the Supreme Court in mid-October.

The British Pakistani Christian Association reported that Bibi has been held in prison since June 2009 when blasphemy allegations were made against her. It added that she had been gang raped over the blasphemy accusations and her children targeted.

“Asia Bibi has suffered the injustice of five years imprisonment for a made up crime,” Wilson Chowdhry, the chairperson of the association, said.

“A cultural faux pas and innocuous comment made while being attacked, led to her being raped, her children sexually molested and her arrest under the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan for good measure,” he continued.

A pre-trial Supreme Court hearing on July 22 last year suspended Bibi’s death sentence, which allowed an appeal to be lodged with the Supreme Court.

She was accused of drinking from the same cup as Muslim women while harvesting berries in her home village near Sheikhupura in 2009 and the following year was sentenced to hang by the neck until dead by a local judge.

She had been asked to fetch water for the other workers, but poured some into an old cup she found lying around and drank from it.

She was accused of contaminating the water intended for the use of Muslims with her Christian mouth.

When she was accused by the women, she said she retorted, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?”

A neighbour, who had been running a feud with Bibi reported the incident to an imam, who then reported it to the authorities and called for her arrest for blasphemy.

Pope Benedict XVI called for charges against her to be dismissed and the Catholic minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, and the Muslim governor of the Punjab, Salmann Taseer, were both assassinated after calling for her release and the dropping of charges against her.

On the day she was sentenced she was reported as saying, “I cried alone, putting my head in my hands. I can no longer bear the sight of people full of hatred, applauding the killing of a poor farm worker. I no longer see them, but I still hear them, the crowd who gave the judge a standing ovation, saying: ‘Kill her, kill her! Allahu Akbar!’”

She related that the courthouse was invaded by a euphoric horde that broke down the doors, chanting, “‘Vengeance for the holy prophet. Allah is great!’ I was then thrown like an old rubbish sack into the van... I had lost all humanity in their eyes.”

If she hangs, Bibi will be the first woman executed by the state for blasphemy.

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