Blasphemy accused Pak-Christian woman approaches LHC against death sentence

Saturday, November 27, 2010

ISLAMABAD - Pakistani-Christian woman Aasia Bibi’s lawyer has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court against the sessions court decision on November 12, in which she was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy, Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti has said.

Bhatti made these revelations while giving a briefing to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Minorities on Friday, and added that the LHC has not fixed a hearing date so far, the Daily Times reported.

He also said that the case against Aasia was baseless, concocted and mala fide, as the complainant and major witnesses were not present at the site of incident, and the government would not allow anyone to misuse the blasphemy law.

The minister admitted that there were lacunas in the blasphemy law in the registration, investigation and trial procedure, and that they should be addressed to save the lives of innocent people.

Bhatti said that he had submitted a report on Aasia’s case to President Asif Ali Zardari, in which he had recommended that she be pardoned.

According to Bhatti, the case will be brought before Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who will then present his advice to the President. Zardari may then choose to issue a pardon, if a higher court has not overturned the ruling by that stage.

Earlier, Bhatti also assured Aasia’s family that his ministry would protect her, saying that she was innocent according to his research, and that he would submit a comprehensive report to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani within a week and plead for mercy in her case.

Aasia, a 45-year-old mother of five, has already spent a year-and-a-half in jail on charges of insulting the prophet Muhammad and the Quran.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI had called for Aasia’s release, and said that Christians in Pakistan “are often victims of violence and discrimination.” (ANI)

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