November 29, 2010

Pakistani death sentence appeal denied

by Jan Harris

Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has been banned by a Lahore court from pardoning Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death under the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

Bibi, a 45-year-old mother from Punjab province, is accused of ‘insulting Islam’ when she argued with woman who refused to drink water after Bibi touched it.

Under Isalmic law a Christian’s touch makes drinking water unclean.

It is claimed that Bibi insulted the Prophet Muhammad during the argument, which took place in June last year.

Bibi asked the president to pardon her after she was sentenced to death on 8 November, becoming the first woman in Pakistan to receive the death sentence for blasphemy.

However the President was banned from pardoning her in a petition filed by Shahid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen.

The case has led to international and Pakistani human rights groups to call for the law to be repealed.

Human Rights Watch, which calls the law abuse in the name of religion’, is calling on governments to press Pakistan to repeal both the blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadiyya law which forbids Ahmadi Muslims from calling themselves Muslim or professing their faith.

The minority Ahmadi Muslim sect and religious minorities such as Christians are suffering growing social persecution and legal discrimination in Punjab province.

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