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Pakistan: Islamists Win Right to Appeal Asia Bibi ‘Blasphemy’ Case – a “death Warrant”.

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Islamists Have Won Right to Appeal Asia Bibi’s Acquittal. 

Asia Bibi’s lawyer leaves Pakistan citing threats to his life

The lawyer who saved Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, from the gallows left the country on Saturday, saying his life was under threat.

Saiful Mulook’s latest victory saw the freeing of Asia Bibi, who spent nearly a decade on death row, after the Supreme Court overturned her sentence on Wednesday.

The decision sparked protests across the country, with major roads blocked in Lahore and Islamabad as religious hardliners called for the death of the judges and those who helped acquit Bibi.

“In the current scenario, it’s not possible for me to live in Pakistan,” the 62-year-old told AFP before boarding a plane to Europe early Saturday morning.

“I need to stay alive as I still have to fight the legal battle for Asia Bibi,” he said.

This is the crucial point:

On Friday night, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party (TLP), which has largely led the demonstrations, announced an end to mass protestsafter reaching a deal with the government.

A five-point agreement seen by AFP, signed by both parties, said the government would not object to an appeal of the verdict, filed earlier in the Supreme Court.

CNN have published the details of this capitulation to the racist far-right,

The terms of the TLP agreement, reached Friday night, include a pledge by the government not to oppose an application by movement members to add Bibi to a list preventing her from leaving the country.

Bibi was still in jail Saturday at an undisclosed location in Pakistan, her lawyer, Saiful Malook, told CNN. Earlier in the week, he said she would need to move to a Western country for her own safety. At least two Western countries have offered Bibi asylum after her release, CNN understands.

Pakistan’s government also agreed not to oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgment in Bibi’s case, to release everyone detained in connection with the protests and to take legal action regarding deaths that may have occurred during the protests.”

The Dawn article continues,

When asked about the outcry, Mulook said it was “unfortunate but not unexpected”.

“What’s painful is the response of the government. They cannot even implement an order of the country’s highest court,” he said, adding that “the struggle for justice must continue”.

According to the agreement, which came after a failed first round of talks, legal proceedings will follow to impose a travel ban on Bibi and stop her leaving the country.

“Her life would be more or less the same, either inside a prison or in solitary confinement for security fears” until a decision on the appeal, said Mulook.

The TLP, founded in 2015, blockaded the capital Islamabad for several weeks last year calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws.

That protest forced the resignation of the federal law minister and paved the way for the group to poll more than 2.23 million votes in the July 25 general election, in what analysts called a “surprisingly” rapid rise.

Asia Bibi: Lawyer flees Pakistan in fear of his life

BBC.

The lawyer representing a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row has fled Pakistan in fear for his life.

Saif Mulook told news agency AFP he had to leave so he could continue to represent Asia Bibi, whose conviction was overturned by judges on Wednesday.

Officials have since agreed to bar Ms Bibi from leaving Pakistan in order to end violent protests over the ruling.

Campaigners blasted the deal as akin to signing her “death warrant”.

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a row with neighbours, and many are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty following her acquittal.

Mr Mulook told the BBC earlier this week she would need to move to a Western country for her own safety. A number of attempts have previously been made on her life.

Several countries have offered her asylum.

Many people on the left have, for many years,  ignored the growth in the Islamist far-right.

Al Jazeera however offers some background on the latest addition to these totalitarian movements which place religion, in the form of a racism against all non-Muslims and hatred against all but their own idea of ‘true’ Muslims,  at the heart of their ideology.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik: New far right campaigns against ‘blasphemy’

Hardline party, which formed last year, rallies support by focusing its political messaging on religious ideology.

The narrow streets of Lahore’s Mazang neighbourhood echo with the sounds of dozens of young men, as someone showers them with rose petals.

They wind their way through this congested, working-class quarter in Pakistan’s second city, some on foot, others mounted on motorcycles.

“Labbaik, labbaik, labbaik ya Rasool Allah!” they chant, raising their arms. “We stand, we stand, we stand with you, O Allah’s prophet!”

Waving brightly coloured green flags, they continue, in tune with an election song: “Hang them, hang them!”.

Meet the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Pakistan’s newest hardline religious party, which calls for blasphemers to be put to death and celebrates those who have murdered the alleged perpetrators.

A year ago, this kind of a political rally, in the heart of the political base of Pakistan’s ruling party, would have been unthinkable.

Formed last year, the TLP has performed credibly in by-elections, first springing to prominence when it challenged the PML-N in this Lahore neighbourhood, securing more than 7,000 votes and finishing third in a poll where its candidate was a virtual unknown.

That vote was for the parliamentary seat vacated by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who was dismissed as prime minister by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations. A final verdict in the corruption cases against him is expected on Friday.

Now, the TLP is set to put up more than 550 candidates for national and provincial assembly seats across the country, and is confident it can mobilise a religiously-motivated vote on the basis of its anti-blasphemy and anti-corruption agenda.

Blasphemy is a central issue for the party, whose leaders follow the Barelvi sect, a South Asian branch of Sunni Islam that places emphasis on the personage of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

“When it involves the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, the finality of his prophethood or the dishonouring of his person, then every Muslim will become an extremist,” says Ejaz Ashrafi, a senior TLP leader, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

….

Led by firebrand far-right scholar Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the TLP mobilised thousands to block a major highway into the capital, Islamabad, for three weeks in November over a minor change to an electoral oath that Rizvi claimed amounted to “blasphemy”.

….

“If they give me the atom bomb, I’ll immediately bomb Holland, before they are able to hold any caricature competitions on the prophet,” he told reporters.

What have been the reactions of official British Muslim organisations, many of which have strong ties to Pakistan, to this horrific case?

What about campaigns that have opposed the racism of Tommy Robinson and his supporters?

Have any defended Asia Bibi, a victim of religious racism?

Have they condemned the Islamist far-right in Pakistan?

We are still waiting to hear any statements. 

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 3, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Christian Asia Bibi Death Sentence in Pakistan for ‘Blasphemy’ Overturned; Islamists Protest Against the Verdict.

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A poster bearing an image of Asia Bibi.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death on blasphemy charges, after accepting her appeal against her sentence.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel had reserved its ruling on Asia Bibi’s final legal appeal against execution (Asia Bibi v. The State, etc) on October 8.

Follow Dawn.com’s live updates on the protests against the verdict here.

The appeal, accepted by SC in 2015, challenged the Lahore High Court’s October 2014 verdict upholding a trial court’s November 2010 decision sentencing Bibi to death for committing blasphemy in 2009.

“The appeal is allowed. She has been acquitted. The judgement of high court as well as trial court is reversed. Her conviction is set aside,” said Justice Nisar in the ruling.

“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” he added.

The 56-page detailed judgement has been authored by CJP Nisar, with a separate concurrent opinion note from Justice Khosa.

“Tolerance is the basic principle of Islam,” the top judge read out, noting that the religion condemns injustice and oppression.

“It is a well settled principle of law that one who makes an assertion has to prove it. Thus, the onus rests on the prosecution to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt throughout the trial,” noted the top judge in the order. “Presumption of innocence remains throughout the case until such time the prosecution on the evidence satisfies the court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the offence alleged against him.

“[…] The expression ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ is of fundamental importance to the criminal justice: it is one of the principles which seeks to ensure that no innocent person is convicted.

“Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” concluded the chief justice.

The court also noted that “it is not for the individuals, or a gathering (mob), to decide as to whether any act falling within the purview of Section 295-C has been committed or not, because as stated earlier, it is the mandate of the court to make such decision after conducting a fully qualified trial and on the basis of credible evidence brought before it”.

The CJP ended the judgement with a hadith of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) on the rights of minorities.

Justice Khosa, in his note, said: “Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous.”

Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, rejected the verdict, saying Bibi had confessed to making derogatory remarks against the prophet to seek pardon.

Bibi’s lawyer Saiful Mulook told AFP: “The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings. This is the biggest and happiest day of my life.

Bibi appeared to be in state of disbelief after hearing the decision from her lawyer.

“I can’t believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?” Bibi told AFP by phone from prison after the ruling. “I just don’t know what to say, I am very happy, I can’t believe it.”

Bibi’s husband also hailed the verdict. “I am very happy. My children are very happy. We are grateful to God. We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice. We knew that she is innocent,” said Ashiq Masih.

My wife spent so many years in jail and we hope that we will soon be together in a peaceful place,” he added.

Shortly after the ruling, hundreds blocked a key road linking Rawalpindi with Islamabad. People are also gathering for protests in Karachi and Peshawar. Similar rallies are being held elsewhere as police urge demonstrators to disperse peacefully.

Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director Omar Waraich described the SC decision as a “landmark verdict”.

“For the past eight years, Asia Bibi’s life languished in limbo. The message must go out that the blasphemy laws will no longer be used to persecute the country’s most vulnerable minorities.”

The decision to take stringent security measures in the capital was made after a number of meetings held to thrash out a strategy to deal with any unforeseen situation after the verdict.

On Oct 13 this year, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, a religio-political party headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, threatened to “paralyse the country within hours if the Supreme Court sets Asia Bibi free”.

Islamabad was put on high alert on Tuesday night. Extra contingents of police and law enforcement agencies have been deployed in the capital.

Paramilitary troops have been deployed in the capital to prevent protesters from reaching the Supreme Court, where security for the judges was beefed up.

About 300 police personnel, along with paramilitary units, are guarding the SC building, adjacent to Parliament House on Constitution Avenue.

Sources in the administration told Dawn that Rangers and Frontier Constabulary had been called as part of measures to step up security in Islamabad. Security of the Judges Enclave and the Diplomatic Enclave has been handed over to Rangers.

The sources said security personnel had been asked to guard the Red Zone as it houses sensitive installations, including the Supreme Court.

According to the sources, when some senior police officers met officials of the apex court, the law enforcers were asked to adopt security measures for the Supreme Court and other key points.

Dawn provides a full account of the background including this:

Case history

The prosecution had claimed that Bibi “admitted” making the blasphemous statements at a “public gathering” on June 19, 2009 “while asking for forgiveness”.

A trial court convicted Bibi for blasphemy in November 2010 and sentenced her to death. The Lahore High Court (LHC) had upheld her conviction and confirmed her death sentence in October 2014.

She had then challenged the LHC verdict in the Supreme Court, which stayed her execution in July 2015 and admitted her appeal for hearing.

The top court had first taken up the appeal in October 2016, but had to adjourn the matter without hearing after one of the judges recused himself from the SC bench. Two years later, the appeal was heard earlier this month and the CJP Nisar-led bench reserved its verdict.

Bibi’s supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute, and the Vatican has called for her release.

In 2011, former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who spoke out in support of Bibi, was gunned down in broad daylight in Islamabad. His assassin Mumtaz Qadri was executed in 2016 after the court found him guilty of murder.

CNN: Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has death penalty conviction overturned

Pakistani Christian on death row acquitted. 

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN)Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acquitted a Christian woman who has been on death row for almost eight years on blasphemy charges.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five from Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to hang after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammed during an argument the year before with Muslim colleagues.

The workers had refused to drink from a bucket of water Asia Bibi had touched because she was not Muslim. At the time, Asia Bibi said the case was a matter of women who didn’t like her “taking revenge.”

She won her appeal against the conviction and subsequent death sentence on Wednesday.

The court quoted Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in its ruling, saying Asia Bibi appeared to have been “more sinned against than sinning.”

“Even if there was some grain of truth in the allegations leveled in this case against the appellant still the glaring contradictions in the evidence of the prosecution highlighted above clearly show that the truth in this case had been mixed with a lot which was untrue,” the ruling said.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization that lobbies on behalf of Christian minorities, said in a statement that “we are breathing a sigh of relief today.”

“These charges stemmed from her Christian identity as well as false accusations against her,” he said. “We are hopeful that Pakistan will now take additional steps to offer religious freedom and basic human rights throughout the country.”

Islamist movement Tehreek-e Labbaik had previously vowed to take to the streets if Bibi was released, and protests broke out in Islamabad and Lahore soon after the ruling was announced.

Within hours, the protests were large enough that government officials in the cities were urging people to stay inside and avoid adding to the chaos.

The Bigots were out in Force:

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious political party chant slogans during a protest against the court decision to overturn the conviction of Christian woman Asia Bibi in Lahore on October 31, 2018.

Christians have had to be protected from racist Islamist attacks.

29 minutes ago

Rangers deployed in Lahore’s Youhanabad

Rangers officials have been deployed in the Youhanabad area of Lahore to deter any potential unrest.

Youhanabad is the largest Christian neighbourhood in Pakistan.

16 minutes ago

TLP protesters shut railway lines in Upper Jhelum Canal

The railway line along the three bridges in the Upper Jhelum Canal has been shut completely by TLP protesters.

“The traffic will remain blocked until Asia Bibi is hanged,” the protesters demand.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 31, 2018 at 11:57 am

End Pakistan Blasphemy Laws: Free Asia Bibi!

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LAHORE, Pakistan — The Lahore High Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Pakistani Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case and dismissed her appeal for acquittal.

The defendant, Asia Bibi, 47, a farmworker, was sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy. She has denied the accusations, which she said stemmed from a dispute with Muslim co-workers.

Ms. Bibi now plans to appeal the decision in the country’s Supreme Court, said her lawyer, Naeem Shakir. But given huge backlogs at the court, analysts said it would probably be at least three years before the appeal would be taken up.

The ruling was the latest chapter in a long ordeal for Ms. Bibi, whose case has focused international attention on how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have become a weapon against religious minorities.

It was also a factor in the 2011 assassination of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province who vociferously campaigned for Ms. Bibi’s release and for overhaul of the blasphemy codes. Religious conservatives were outraged by Mr. Taseer’s advocacy, and he was shot dead by his police security guard in Islamabad. Months later, his son Shahbaz Ali Taseer was kidnapped by Taliban militants and his whereabouts is still unknown.

Meanwhile, Ms. Bibi has languished in prison, and successive governments have been reluctant to touch the issue.

Death sentences have rarely been carried out in blasphemy cases, but that is in part because such allegations have frequently led to deadly vigilante attacks on the accused or their lawyers.

The Lahore courtroom was packed with clerics and members of extremist groups who supported the prosecution, and they erupted in celebration upon hearing the two-judge panel’s decision to dismiss Ms. Bibi’s appeal. “Let us celebrate by distributing sweets!” said one cleric who was reciting verses from the Quran throughout the almost two-and-a-half-hour court proceeding.

“I am very happy,” said Qari Salaam, a co-worker of Ms. Bibi’s and the main complainant in the case. “The judges have given a verdict on merit, and Asia deserved it.”

New York Times.

The ‘dispute’ arose  in this way,

In June 2009, Noreen was harvesting falsa berries with a group of other farmhands in a field in Sheikhupura. She was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well; she complied but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well. A neighbor of Noreen, who had been involved in a running feud with Noreen’s family about some property damage, saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink the same water as a Muslim, and some of the other workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian. Some arguments ensued. Noreen recounts that when they made derogatory statements about her religion, she responded, “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?” Wikipedia. 

Later, some of the workers complained to a cleric that Noreen insulted Muhammad. A mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was rescued by the police.[4] The police initiated an investigation about her remarks, resulting in her arrest under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code.[3] She subsequently was imprisoned for over a year before being formally charged.[17]

Further information,

As reaction pours in from around the world to yesterday’s Lahore High Court ruling upholding the death sentence for Asia Bibi in her wrongful blasphemy suit, a Christian human rights watchdog group is calling on the Supreme Court of Pakistan to expedite a hearing in the case, and a London-based music band that is “disgusted” with the decision has launched a music video supporting the imprisoned mother of five children.

In an audible and visual show of its disgust at the high court decision, ooberfuse, an electronica band from Woolwich, London today released FREE, a music video crying out for an end to the persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities in Pakistan and around the world. They join a British Pakistani Christian Association protest this Saturday from 11:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m. at 10 Downing Street, the London residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

You can hear the radio play edit by clicking here: http://tinyurl.com/k3zeg3g

Cherrie Anderson, frontwoman of the band, explained: “We have been calling out for Asia’s release ever since we translated Asia’s autobiography into English. Asia’s own words inspired our defiant anthem FREE. We will carry on our campaign until religious minorities around the world enjoy the freedoms people of all faiths and none enjoy here in the UK.”

ASSIST  news. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

The London Free Thinker (October the 18th) reports on the protest.

London protest over blasphemy sentence.

Bibi has since released a memoir from prison called Blasphemy, detailing her ordeal:

I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.

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!’

Bibi’s case drew global criticism in 2011 when Pakistan’s minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and eastern Punjab governor Salman Taseer were killed for supporting her and opposing blasphemy laws. Taseer was killed in the capital Islamabad by one of his police guards after visiting Bibi in jail.

Bhati was killed months later by the Pakistani Taliban, who called him an “infidel Christian”.

Bibi has since released a memoir from prison called Blasphemy, detailing her ordeal.

I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.

Bibi’s lawyer Sardar Mushtaq said:

We have the right to appeal in 30 days, and we will continue this legal battle by approaching the Supreme Court of Pakistan. We have a strong case, and we will try our best to save her life.

Kate Allen, UK Director of Amnesty International, said:

This is the latest blasphemy outrage to come out of Pakistan. It seems obvious that this is a case of religious persecution, and it’s very likely the result of a squabble which escalated out of all proportion.

Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan are often used to settle petty vendettas and persecute minority groups. It’s a complete disgrace that the courts are complicit in these vendettas.

There has also been an alarming spate of killings of people who have spoken out against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Mohammad Asghar, a Scottish man, is also on death row in Pakistan after being sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Asghar, 70, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death earlier this year after writing a series of letters claiming to be the “Prophet” Mohammed. Last month Asghar was shot and wounded by a police officer at the Rawalpindi prison where he is held.

 

Free, Free the Beloved Asia Bibi!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2014 at 10:49 am