A Christian woman who was given the death penalty last year for drinking water from a well reserved for Muslims in Pakistan has had her appeal against the sentence rejected by the Lahore high court.
by, Oliver Lane | Breitbart | h/t Mark Broadbent
Breitbart reported on the original case last year, which arose after Aasiya Noreen, a fruit picker, stopped to refresh herself during the course of her day’s work. After she was caught drinking from the same cup used by Muslim women, the well was declared “Haram”, and Noreen was beaten for the offence, before being arrested.
At the time of her conviction, Noreen said: “I have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. 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”.
It was alleged during the altercation following the water incident, Noreen made negative comments about Islam. Noreen has defended her innocence in the five years since, insisting her comment went no further than “I think Jesus would see things differently than Mohammed”, and her lawyer has argued the charge arose because of “personal enmity” towards the defendant, rather than a genuine grievance, reports the Independentnewspaper.
None of the original witnesses were present in court to testify, but a Muslim “prayer leader” (Imam) who claimed Noreen, an unrepentant Christian, had confessed the crime to him, did. When the Lahore court delivered its verdict to maintain the death penalty in this case, Noreen and her defence team reacted with shock. Her lawyer promised to keep fighting: “I was expecting the opposite decision. We will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a few days”.
If the case is lodged at the Supreme court in Islamabad, the debate over Noreen’s life, which has already lasted five years, could drag out for many more. It has already sparked significant attention, both at home in Pakistan and abroad. U.S. Kentucky Senator and Republic Presidential hopeful Rand Paul has said if Noreen wasn’t released from death row, foreign aid to the country should cease. Lamenting the case, Paul said: “According to her co-workers, she insulted the Prophet. In our country, we refer to such quibbling as gossip. In Pakistan, if you are a Christian, it can land you on death row”.
The matter of religious plurality is an exceptionally controversial one in Pakistan, and as this case continues Aasiya Noreen may have trouble finding backers. In 2011, two senior politicians who spoke out against the blasphemy law that Noreen was charged with and publicly supported her cause were assassinated. The Pakistani minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti was the nation’s only Christian cabinet member until his death at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban.
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Iranian blogger, Soheil Arabi. Photo courtesy of: HRANA
by, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran | David Wood @ Answering Muslims
IRAN: A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death. An informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the blogger, Soheil Arabi, will be able to appeal the decision until September 20, 2014.
Agents from the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Sarallah Base arrested Soheil Arabi, 30, and his wife in November 2013. Arabi’s wife was released a few hours later, but he was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison, before he was transferred to Evin’s General Ward 350. Branch 76 of the Tehran Criminal Court, under Judge Khorasani, found Arabi guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on August 30, 2014.
“The way he was arrested was illegal. It is not clear how the agents were able to enter their home at that time in the morning. All the doors were locked and family members were asleep. Agents entered his home and bedroom. He and his wife were arrested and some of their photographs and personal belongings were taken after their home was searched,” said the source.
“Soheil had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages. He has accepted his charges, but throughout the trial, he stated that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition,” the source told the Campaign.
The source noted that the Tehran Penal Court issued its ruling without regard for Article 264 of the Islamic Penal Code. “Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code states that if a person insults the Prophet of Islam, his punishment is death. But in Article 264, it explicitly says that if a suspect merely claims in court that he said the insulting words in anger, in quoting someone, or by mistake, his death sentence will be converted to 74 lashes. I would like to emphasize that if only the suspect claims this, he will not be eligible for death, and there is no need to even prove his claim,” added the source.
“Unfortunately, despite this Article and the explanations provided, the judges issued the death sentence. They didn’t even take any notice of Soheil’s statements in court in which he repeated several times that he wrote the posts under poor [psychological] conditions, and that he is remorseful. Three of the judges ruled for the death sentence, and two ruled for imprisonment,” said the source.
According to the source, Soheil Arabi has another judicial case. On September 4, 2014, Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court under Judge Salavati sentenced Arabi to the maximum punishment of three years in prison on charges of “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “propaganda against the state,” through his writings on Facebook.
F R E E S O H E I L A R A B I N O W !
by, Jakarta Globe | h/t Trop
An Indonesian atheist was lawfully jailed for two-and-a-half years after being accused of blaspheming Islam, the Supreme Court decided in a ruling posted on its website on Tuesday.
The court said it upheld the sentence for former civil servant Alexander Aan, who was found guilty of disseminating cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad and saying on Facebook that “God does not exist.”
“The defendant was proven to have spread information which blasphemes the Prophet Muhammad in eleven cartoons,” the court said in its ruling.
Alexander, who worked as a civil servant at a local government office in West Sumatra, was beaten by a mob prior to being taken to jail, after posting the status and cartoons.
The Indonesian state requires every citizen to believe in Allah and Muhammad.
The Muaro district court in June 2012 sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in jail and a Rp 100 million ($8,500) fine for inciting religious hatred. The sentence was upheld by the West Sumatera High Court in August 2012.
The case sparked international outrage and Alexander was labeled a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He was released from jail in January this year.
Coptic Christian teacher, Demiana Emad. Photo courtesy of: Ahram Online
The conviction stems from parents’ complaints, but a human rights NGO says that the social studies teacher only compared religions from a historical perspective
by, Ahram Online | h/t David Wood @ Answering Muslims
A Coptic Christian school teacher has been sentenced to six months in prison on charges of insulting Islam.
Demiana Emad, a 23-year-old social studies teacher, was arrested on 9 May 2013 after the head of the parents’ association of Sheikh Sultan Primary School in Luxor filed a complaint accusing her of insulting Islam.
In June 2013, Emad was sentenced to pay a LE100,000 fine. Sunday’s jail sentence was ordered by the court in response to an appeal filed by the defendant on last year’s fine.
According to a year-old report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Emad didn’t insult Islam, only “presented a comparison between religions in ancient, middle and modern ages as mentioned in the curriculum.”
The report, which warned of similar cases becoming “a tool to oppress minorities,” added that during investigations the majority of Emad’s students denied that she had insulted Islam in her class.
Charges of insulting religion go back to the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, widely used then as a pretext to crack down on political activists. However, occurrences of the charge significantly rose under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was removed from power last July.
A report issued by the EIPR last September revealed that since the 25 January 2011 revolution until the end of 2012, a total of 63 citizens, both Muslims and Christians, were charged with insulting religion.
Article 98 of Egypt’s penal code says anyone convicted of offending religion in any form can face up to six years in prison.
A Christian street sweeper was targeted by a mob, charged with having burned pages with Koranic writing on them. In reality, the pages were ripped up by two students. The mob was ready to lynch the Christian man when a 26-year old Muslim man belonging to a human rights network intervened.
by, Shafique Khokhar | Asia News | h/t Trop
Faisalabad – Punjab, Pakistan: A “success” story with a happy ending, thanks to the intervention of a Muslim activist, who saved the life of an innocent young Christian who is not even able to read. This is what Suneel Malik, Director of The Peace and Human Development Foundation ( Phd ) tells AsiaNews, commenting on the latest case of false blasphemy charges that occurred in recent days in Faisalabad in Punjab. He hopes it will help increase the level of tolerance towards religious minorities, for the construction of a true peace in Pakistan and put an end “to false accusations that besmirch the name of the country” and affect social harmony.
The episode dates back to 22 May 2014: Mansha Masih, a Christian, who has worked for 15 years as a scavenger in the town of Hajweri, Faisalabad. He was picking up litter and leaves from abandoned houses in the area, when a young Muslim named Billu, from the roof of his home, accused him of desecrating pages of the Muslim holy book, the Koran. After having railed against the Christian, he began to brutally beat him.
However, the intervention of the 26-year old Muslim activist Farhan Sadiq, a journalist and member of the Human Rights Defenders Network, was decisive in saving the Christian. He ripped Masih from the hands of his tormentor and took him home. He then launched an independent investigation to verify the facts, after which it was found that the pages containing sacred verses were “desecrated” by two underage students in the area, who did not want to go to the local mosque, so they burned the books.
However, rumors of a possible case of blasphemy, perpetrated by a Christian had already circulated in the town and a crowd was ready to punish the man, though innocent, with death. Even after the confession of two young men, the crowd did not want to believe the innocence of Mansha Masih, who has repeatedly stated he is “illiterate” and ” had done nothing wrong,” not knowing the content of the verses printed on sheets. The Muslim activist’s decision in dealing with crowd and proving the charges to be false, in the end, saved the Christian’s life, thus he fulfilled his task “with a great sense of responsibility.”
With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst 20 per cent are Shia. 1.85 per cent are Hindu, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent). Violence against ethnic and religious minorities is commonplace across the country, with Shia Muslims and Christians as the main targets, with things getting worse. Dozens of episodes , including targeted attacks against entire communities – such as in Gojra in 2009 or Joseph Colony Lahore last year – or places of worship (Peshawar in September last year) or abuses against individuals (Sawan Masih and Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih or the young Robert Fanish Masih, who also died in his cell), are often perpetrated under the pretext of the blasphemy laws.
by, Joe Newby | The Examiner | Thank you to Christopher Collins
On Wednesday, Dave Gaubatz, a former Air Force investigator and author of “Muslim Mafia,” told Examiner.com that he “infiltrated” a Muslim conference held in Detroit earlier this month. While at the conference, he reportedly spoke to a representative of a group known as Muslim Advocates, who said the organization is working “closely” with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to close down accounts of users critical of Islam.
“They are asking these groups to close the accounts of anyone who is critical of Islam,” he said. “This is considered serious hate speech and should not be allowed on the Internet.”
According to Gaubatz, the representative also said that “anyone critical of Islam and sharia law are haters.” Ditto for those who oppose either the construction or expansion of a mosque in the United States.
“We are experts with deep experience in the courtroom and powerful connections in Congress and the White House,” Gaubatz recalled being told by the Muslim Advocates representative.
“This should be of no surprise to anyone,” Gaubatz said.
Gaubatz also said the conference, which was attended by representatives and leaders from several groups, should have been named the “U.S. Constitution and the 1st Amendment are for MB terrorists and not for American Patriots.” For four days, he said, he stayed at the same hotel as leaders from over a dozen groups that support the Muslim Brotherhood.
He reportedly met and spoke with executives from the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust.
“I was informed that NAIT owned several hundred million dollars of property in America, and has the funding from 400 plus Islamic Centers in America,” he added.
But Gaubatz’ report of collusion between these groups and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter present a clear danger to the fundamental right of free speech and Americans’ ability to freely express themselves online. As we have reported multiple times, Muslim activists have called for global blasphemy bans and an end to free speech in the United States, despite the clear language of the First Amendment.
Last Wednesday, we reported that one page critical of Islam — “Islam Exposed” — was yanked by Facebook after administrators received death threats. Facebook later restored the page, saying it was yanked in error.
On Wednesday, a post at the page advising visitors to avoid hateful speech was removed by Facebook for allegedly violating the site’s community standards. Facebook did not explain why the post was pulled and one administrator received a 30-day ban.
But as we have reported, Facebook routinely turns a blind eye to threats from users with Muslim-sounding names. Last August, for example, Facebook told a conservative female they could not confirm direct threats she received violated their community standards. One threat reported to Facebook was quite specific: “We will kill you.”
Ironically, Facebook has said it supports free speech and reviews all complaints equally.
We contacted both Facebook and Muslim Advocates to verify Gaubatz’ claim and received no reply as of this writing.
Update: A few hours after this article was published, Facebook falsely flagged the link as “unsafe” in what appears to be a bid to keep it from being circulated. We have reached out to Facebook, but have not received a response.
Update #2: Muslim Advocates spokesperson Fatima Khan responded with an email claiming we misquoted their representative, even though we did not. The statement relayed to us was Gaubatz’s recollection, not a direct quote from MA or any of their representatives. We specifically asked Khan about the quote, and about allegations the group is working to shut down social media accounts of those critical of Islam. Khan never responded. The article was flagged by Facebook after our contact with Khan. More on the incident can be seen here.
by, Deccan Herald | h/t Trop
Bangladesh: A mob of nearly 3,000 attacked Hindu households and a temple in eastern Bangladesh after two youths from the community allegedly insulted Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.
Police today arrested 17 people, including the principal of Bagmara Madrasa, for the attack on the temple and over two dozen households at Homna in Comilla district, about 100 km south east of Dhaka, last week.
“We so far arrested 17 people and some of them made confessional statements regarding the attack. A manhunt is underway to arrest the rest of the culprits,” police chief of Homna Aslam Shikdar told PTI on phone.
He said suspected mastermind of the attack Nazrul Islam is still on the run. The local police chief said steps were underway to put the accused on trial on charges of attacking the Hindu households and the temple under a planned manner.
A Hindu woman cries after her home was destroyed. Photo courtesy of: Pamela Geller
A makeshift police camp was setup at the village where the incident took place on April 26 following rumours that two Hindu youths had allegedly insulted the prophet in a Facebook post.
Earlier reports said culprits mobilised attackers mostly belonging to fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and several other ultra right groups who ransacked the temple and the nearby households and looted some valuables.
“The attack continued for some 20 minutes but during the time, the culprits preferred not to injure anyone…our initial investigation found it was a pre-planned attack as they used loudspeakers and distributed leaflets to mobiles the attack,” Shikdar said.
People at the neighbourhood said nearly 3,000 attackers, mostly from outside the locality, staged the attack as the village elders were set to hold a meeting to resolve the issue of the alleged defamation of the prophet.
Shikdar said police immediately rushed to the scene but reached the remote village only when the attackers had fled.
by, Shadi Paveh | Gatestone Institute
The notes from Dr. Azam’s medical journal include a crushed toe, broken fingers, missing fingernails, broken ribs, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, marks of flogging on her back and feet [and] extensive damage to her genitals.
Dutch authorities expressed shock and sadness over her execution and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran for approximately 20 days.
Roya Nobakht, 47, presently being detained as a political prisoner in Iran, may face execution for insulting Islam. She has lived in Stockport, England with her husband for the last six years and holds dual British-Iranian citizenship.
Her husband, Daryoush Taghipoor, has stated that his wife was arrested while visiting a friend at Iran’s Shiraz airport last October for comments she had made on a Facebook group calling the government of Iran “too Islamic.” According to a copy of her charge sheet seen by the UK’s Independent; she was transferred to Tehran and charged with “gathering and participation with intent to commit crimes against national security and insulting Islamic sanctities”– crimes punishable by death.
In an interview, Mr. Taghipoor told the Manchester Evening News that “his wife is not well at all…she has lost three stones [42 lbs]… and is scared that the government will kill her.” He also said that a confession had been extracted from his wife “under duress.” As is well documented, torture is systematically used by Iranian authorities to obtain confessions from political dissidents and even from some common prisoners.
Roya Nobakht and husband Daryoush Taghipoor. Photo courtesy of: Information Nigeria
Ms. Nobakht’s fears are not unfounded. Iran’s persecution of expatriates is nothing new. The first known case was that of Ms. Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who died under torture in 2003 while in custody. Ms. Zahara Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian, was hanged in 2011. Three Canadian-Iranians; Saeed Malekpour, Hossein Derakhshan and Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, along with American Amir Hekmati, were all arbitrarily arrested while visiting relatives in Iran on vague anti-government charges. With the exception of Mr. Ghassemi-Shall, who was recently released, each one presently languishes inside Iran as political prisoners under dire conditions.
Ms Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who had left Iran in 1974, returned in 2003 to cover a story about Iran. She was soon arrested and detained in Evin prison on charges of espionage. As Iran does not recognize dual citizenships, Ms. Kazemi was not allowed representation by Canadian authorities. She later died in custody. The Iranian officials claimed she had died as a result of a stroke but refused to return her body to Canada. In 2005, however, Dr. Shahram Azam, a doctor with the Iranian security forces who had examined Ms. Kazemi’s half-dead body, fled Iran. He testified that the victim’s body showed extensive signs of torture administered over a few days. The notes from his medical journal include a crushed toe, broken fingers, missing finger nails, broken ribs, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, marks of flogging on her back and feet, extensive damage to the genitals and peculiar deep scratches on her neck. She was 52 years old and the first victim of the Islamic regime’s war of terror on Iranians holding dual citizenship. Her body has never been returned to her son in Canada. After her murder, especially under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, diplomatic relations between Iran and Canada deteriorated significantly.
Ms Zahra Bahrami, 45, who held dual Dutch-Iranian citizenship, had travelled to Iran to visit her ailing daughter. She was arrested in 2009 for participating in anti-regime protests and taken to the dreaded Evin prison. According to eyewitnesses, Ms Bahrami was tortured so severely she could not sit or stand easily and was denied medical care for serious lung complications. On Jan 29, 2011, she was suddenly hanged at 5:00 a.m. without anyone’s knowledge. She was then hastily buried by the authorities in the absence of her children. Dutch authorities expressed shock and sadness over her execution and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran for approximately 20 days.
Mr. Amir Hekmati 31, an American born in Arizona to Iranian parents and who was visiting Iran for the first time, was arrested in 2011 and charged with “spying for the CIA.” He was tortured until he finally gave a televised confession. As a result he was sentenced to death but thanks to heavy international pressure, in 2014 his sentence was finally changed to 10 years in prison. Three Canadians — Mr. Saeed Malekpour, 39; Mr. Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, 45; and Mr. Hossein Derakhshan, 38 — were arrested while visiting relatives in Iran in 2008, on various charges. Malekpour was charged with designing software that was used in an “un-Islamic” way by third parties, whereas Ghassemi-Shall was accused of the customary espionage. Both were tortured while kept in solitary confinement for over a year and sentenced to death. Malekpour wrote from prison that his jaw had been broken while his interrogators were trying to extract his teeth with pliers, and that he had only confessed to crimes dictated to him by his interrogators under torture and threats to his family. Malekpour’s death sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison, while Mr. Ghassemi-Shall, was released in September 2013 — both due to successful campaigns by various international human rights organizations.
Derakhshan — nicknamed the “blogfather” — is best known for introducing blogging to Iran in 2001. He was sentenced for the contents of his blogs to 19.5 years in prison — the heaviest sentence ever handed down to a blogger.
The Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize dual citizenships and considers all those who were born in Iran or to Iranian parents as Iranian citizens subject to its deadly Islamic penal code. One hundred and thirty-one offenses are punishable by death including theft, adultery, homosexuality, political dissidence, drug possession and blasphemy. It would be fair to conclude that travelling to Iran with any citizenship carries a risk. One enters a lawless and unaccountable country that lacks any degree of human rights, and where torture and hangings are an integral part of its government’s rule and survival.
Shafqat Emmanuel and Shugufta Emmanuel. Sentenced to death.
Sentence comes eight days after second Christian handed death penalty.
by, Our Pakistan Correspondent | Morning Star News
LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A Christian couple in Punjab Province incapable of writing proper Urdu was sentenced to death today for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages, bringing the number of Christians on death row in Pakistan to four.
In a country reeling from increasing religious intolerance, the death knell for Shafqat Emmanuel and Shugufta Emmanuel sounded eight days after a court in Lahore sentenced another Christian, Sawan Masih, to death for allegedly insulting Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, during a drunken conversation with a Muslim friend. that made Masih the second Christian in Pakistan now on death row after a judge sentenced Christian mother Asia Bibi to death for alleged blasphemy in November 2010.
A court in Toba Tek Singh heard the case against Shafqat Emmanuel, 43, and his wife, a cleaner at a local missionary school and mother to four young children. They were accused of sending blasphemous text messages on June 18, 2013, to complainants Muhammad Hussain and Gojra Tehsil Bar Association President Anwar Mansoor Goraya from a number allegedly registered in Shagufta’s name.
The Gojra City Police in Punjab charged them with blasphemy under Sections 295-B (insulting the Koran, punishable by life imprisonment), 295-C (insulting Muhammad, punishable by death) and 25-D of The Telegraph Act of 1985. Section 25-D recommends a maximum of three years for intentionally “causing annoyance.”
The couple’s lawyer, Nadeem Hassan, said the judge had succumbed to Islamists’ pressure and handed down the death sentence even though there was no concrete evidence against the couple.
“Toba Tek Singh Additional Sessions Judge Mian Amir Habib was clearly intimidated by advocate Touqir Ashraf and some other Islamist lawyers from Lahore who were representing the complainants,” Hassan said. “These men kept pressuring the judge during the entire trial, which was conducted in prison due to fears for the couple’s security. Even on Friday [March 28], the complainants’ lawyers kept proclaiming Koranic references calling for death to blasphemers.”
Prosecuting attorneys told the court they were “determined to become Ghazi Ilamdin Shaheed and Mumtaz Qadri if the judge did not convict the accused,” Hassan told Morning Star News in Lahore. Ilamdin Shaheed is revered as a hero by Muslims for killing a Hindu publisher, Mahasay Rajpal, who in 1924 published a book considered blasphemous against Muhammad. Qadri was a police guard who gunned down a top government official, Salman Taseer, because of his outspoken views on the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. Qadri has been sentenced to death but has challenged his conviction.
“The police failed to recover the SIM [Subscriber Identity Module] allegedly registered in Shagufta’s name from the couple’s possession,” Hassan said. “The police just produced a receipt of a cellular company on which Shagufta’s national identity card number was written against the number.”
He added that police had earlier claimed that Hussain’s call data had revealed that the messages had been sent from Shagufta’s cell phone number. Hassan said that during the trial, he kept demanding that the prosecution present the call data record in court, which they failed to do.
“During preliminary investigations, Shagufta had told the police that her cell phone had been lost for a month, and that she did not know who might have sent the alleged messages,” he said. “Nevertheless, the Gojra City Police detained the couple, along with their four minor children, and pressured them to name someone who could have sent the messages.”
Hassan said that in order to appease mobs led by Islamist clerics, police forced Shafqat Emmanuel, who is confined to a wheelchair due to a spinal injury, to confess that he had sent the blasphemous messages.
“The police tortured Shafqat to confess before a judicial magistrate, but the crippled man retracted his statement when we requested the session judge to record his statement again,” he said.
Shafqat’s backbone was fractured in an accident in 2004. Since then he has been paralyzed in the lower body. Since his accident, Shagufta has been the only breadwinner for the family’s four children, Ambrose, 13, Danish, 10, Sarah, 7, and Amir, 5.
Hassan said he would challenge the verdict in High Court once he receives a copy of the detailed verdict.
Farrukh Harrison of the Christian advocacy group World Vision in Progress told Morning Star News that his group had been protesting against the “court’s biased attitude” from the trial’s outset.
“Judge Habib simply refused to accept our submissions regarding insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution,” Harrison said. “We also moved the High Court in this regard, but our petition was referred back with a direction to the trial court to expedite the matter.”
Harrison lamented the fact that the judge had given death sentence to both the husband and wife even though they had forced a confession from her husband.
“Why was Shagufta given death sentence when the police claims that her husband had committed the act?” he said. “Isn’t this travesty of justice that a poor couple has been convicted for a motiveless crime?”
Harrison said the court also should have noted that in most cases of blasphemy, the accused are from poor background.
“The question is what could have been this couple’s motive for committing this crime in the first place,” he said. “They are uneducated, poor people whose entire life is limited to their hometown only.”
The activist further said that their lawyer had told the court that the couple couldn’t possibly have written the alleged texts written in Roman Urdu when they couldn’t even read or write Urdu properly.
“It’s only a matter of time when two other Christians accused of blasphemy [Pastor Adnan Masih, aka Adnan Prince, and Asif Pervaiz] would also be given the death sentence,” he said. “It’s a pity that all these people will have to suffer for years in prison until the High Court judges their cases on merit.”
At least three other cases have been registered previously against Christians based on blasphemous text messages.
In May 2006, Qamar David was accused of sending blasphemous text messages to various Islamic clerics in Karachi. He was convicted in February 2010 and died in prison on March 15, 2011.
In January 2009, Hector Aleem and Basharat Khokhar were accused of sending text messages that hurt Muslims’ religious sentiment. They were acquitted of the charge on May 31, 2011.
Ryan Stanton, then 16, was charged with sending blasphemous text messages in Karachi on Oct. 10, 2012. He has fled the country after the family’s home was ransacked by a violent Muslim mob.
At least two Muslims, Abdul Sattar and Irfan Rafique, have also been charged with sending text messages.
Rights groups have said that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute minorities and to settle personal scores. In a recent report, Amnesty International said the vague formulation of the blasphemy laws, along with inadequate investigation by authorities and intimidation by mobs and some religious groups, has promoted vigilantism across Pakistan, especially in Punjab Province.
Although Pakistani courts have ordered death sentences on a variety of charges, thousands of inmates have been parked on death row since a government moratorium on executions began in 2008. But since the election last year of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has publicly supported capital punishment, analysts have speculated that the government might move to hold executions.
Sawan Masih was sentenced by Lahore Additional District and Sessions Judge Chaudhry Ghulam Murtaza on March 27. The street sweeper was also fined 200,000 rupees (US$2,027). Accusations against Masih sparked the destruction of 180 Christian-owned homes and shops in Lahore’s Joseph Colony in March 2013; an anti-terrorism court freed the 133 Muslim suspects in spite of strong video evidence against them.
by, Zaheer Babar | AP | ABC News | h/t Trop
A court convicted a Pakistani Christian man and sentenced him to death Thursday in a blasphemy case that sparked a riot last year in the eastern city of Lahore, according to his lawyer.
Naeem Shakir, the lawyer for Sawan Masih, said a judge announced the verdict during a hearing at the jail where the trial has been held out of fears that Masih might be attacked on his way to court. Shakir said he would appeal.
Although Pakistan has never executed anybody under the law, crowds angered over blasphemy accusations have been known to take the law into their own hands and kill those they suspect of violating it. Once an accusation is made it is extremely difficult to reverse, in part because law enforcement personnel do not want to appear to be going easy on suspects.
Such vigilantism has created a climate of fear, forcing frightened judges into holding court sessions inside jails and keeping witnesses from coming to the defense of those on trial.
Many human rights activists say the blasphemy law, which allows for punishment of life in prison or death, is misused as a way to target people for personal gain or revenge.
The incident that led to Thursday’s conviction began March 7 last year when a young Muslim man accused Masih of maligning the Prophet Muhammad. Police arrested Masih, but the next day a mob ransacked the neighborhood where he and other Christians live, setting fire to homes and destroying household possessions.
Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight ahead of the riots. Many in the neighborhood have since moved back, and their homes have been rebuilt.
The police arrested 83 suspects following the rampage, including the man who brought the complaint against Masih, said a Lahore police official, Rana Taseer Riaz. But so far none of the suspects have been convicted and all were released on bail, he said.
Amnesty International condemned Masih’s conviction and sentencing. The organization said there were serious concerns about the fairness of his trial and called for his immediate release. The organization also called on Pakistan to bring to trial the people responsible for attacking the Christian homes.
“Failure to do so will effectively send the message that anyone can commit outrageous abuses and excuse them as defense of religious sentiments,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law has existed since even before the country’s 1947 founding. During the 1980s, the U.S.-backed military dictator, Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, amended it to add the death penalty and single out Islam as the religion that may not be insulted, among other changes.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Islamabad contributed to this report.
A Hindu temple burns after it was attacked in Larkana, southern Pakistan’s Sindh province. Photo courtesy of: NBC News
by, Abdul Sattar | Associated Press | The Garden Island
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — An angry crowd set fire to a Hindu community center in southern Pakistan after allegations circulated that a Hindu had desecrated Islam’s holy book, police said Sunday.
The incident took place overnight in the city of Larkana in Sindh province after some people said they saw burned pages of the Quran in a garbage bin near the home of a Hindu man, said Anwar Laghari, the area police officer.
Violence triggered by allegations of Quran desecration and other allegedly blasphemous acts is common in conservative Pakistan. A controversial Pakistani law imposes the death penalty, but sometimes crowds take the law into their own hands and attacked the accused, often members of a religious minority in the majority Sunni Muslim state.
Laghari said that a crowd of about 200 angry people gathered and attacked the community center, which was next to a Hindu temple. He said the building was partly gutted, while the alleged desecrater and his family members were taken into protective custody.
The officer said initial investigation revealed that the Hindu rented the house from a Muslim family and cleaned it before he moved in. He may have burned the holy book inadvertently, the policeman said.
A member of the Hindu community holds a damaged statue inside a temple that was attacked on Saturday night, in Larkana, southern Pakistan’s Sindh province. Photo courtesy of: NBC News
Crowds also attacked Hindu property in the nearby towns of Usta Mohammad, Dera Allah Yar and Sohbat Pur, but they were dispersed by police, senior officer Syed Ashfaq Anwar said. They are in a part of adjoining Baluchistan province where significant numbers of Hindus live.
Anwar said dozens attempted to set fire to a temple and some shops owned by Hindus. Police fired tear gas shot and shot into the air. He said someone from the crowd fired at the police, and two civilians and an officer were wounded.
Aftermath of “Our Dharamshala” (community centre) /Hindu Temple descrated by Muslims. Photo courtesy of: NBC News
by, Rana Yasif | The Express Tribune – Pakistan
LAHORE, Pakistan: Sawan Masih told a court hearing a blasphemy case against him on Friday that some businessmen at a steel market near Joseph Colony had hatched a plan to drive out Christian families residing there by alleging blasphemy.
An additional district and sessions judge fixed March 6 for hearing defence evidence and final arguments after recording Masih’s statement.
Masih said Joseph Colony was located next to a steel market. He said some businessmen at the market had been pressing the Christian families residing there to sell their property to them.
He said after the residents declined offers the businessmen hatched a plan to drive them out by alleging blasphemy.
“The warehouse owners were having market committee elections then… two groups, Aman Group and Ittehad Group, were contesting.” He said both groups put up banners accusing him of blaspheming against the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
Masih said announcements were made in the area mosques that “a Christian man had committed blasphemy.”
“They played on religious sentiments of the neighbours… registered a case against me and set the colony on fire.” Masih alleged that the police were also involved in the “conspiracy.”
“Police caused alarm among the Christians who were advised to leave the colony to save their lives.” He said, “The Christian families were leaving Joseph Colony till late into the night on March 8 and on the morning of March 9… They then set the 200 houses on fire. Police had arrested me on the night of March 8.”
Masih said the plot had been hatched to takeover the colony land. The complainant, some of the prosecution witnesses and 83 other people were later charged in cases – FIR 114/13 under Sections 148, 149, 436, 427, ATA 337/F1, L2, 295/A, 353, 377, 324, 186 [rioting, unlawful assembly, mischief by fire or explosive substance, mischief causing damage, assault, attempt to commit qatl-i-amd, and blasphemy] of the PPC. They are under trial in an anti-terrorism court.
Masih denied that he had made derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet (pbuh). He said he had “deep respect for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He said his own beliefs did not allow him to commit blasphemy against any prophet.
Shahid Imran, the complainant, had said that he had been talking to a neighbour Muhammad Shafique, when the accused, Sawan Masih, approached them and used derogatory language against the holy prophet (pbuh).
Imran said he warned Masih to stop but he continued his diatribe. He had filed a complaint at the Badami Bagh police station.
Professor TJ Joseph. “Behanded” by Muslims. Photo courtesy of: Asia News
Kerala Court hands down acquittal on appeal. In 2010, Islamic extremists accused the teacher of having offended Muhammad. While denying any responsibility, a group of strangers cut off his hand and part of his right arm. After being suspended and then fired by the school authorities, today the teacher was offered his job again.
by, Nirmala Carvalho | Asia News | h/t Theodore – Shoebat.com
Mumbai, India: TJ Joseph, a Christian teacher accused of blasphemy in 2010, following which a group of strangers cut off his right hand and part of the arm, has finally been acquitted. The court of Thodupuzha in Kerala today heard the appeal filed by the teacher and acquitted him of all charges. A ruling , Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians ( GCIC ) told AsiaNews, “for which we must thank the Indian judicial system. The case of Professor Joseph was one of the darkest pages in Kerala’s recent history.”
In March 2010, the teacher, a professor at Newman College, was accused of blasphemy by the Islamic fundamentalist group Popular Front of India ( PFI ). According to the extremists, he added offensive questions about Muhammad to an exam questionnaire. Under constant threats, the man apologized publicly for his “unintentional error.”
A few months later, however, a group of strangers attacked him in Muvattupuzha ( Ernakulam district), cutting off the hand and part of his right arm. TJ Joseph survived the attack, but in September the same year the school authorities fired him, without any possibility of a pension.
According to Sajan George, the most serious aspects of this episode “was the attitude of the police, who registered the complaint against him and also arrested him, and of the institution, which has suspended him from duty. Fortunately, the Mahatma Gandhi University, to which Newman College is affiliated, revoked the decision of the school authorities and have offered him his job back.”
by, The Jakarta Post
Indonesia: Alexander Aan, who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on June 15, 2012 under the Blasphemy Law for publicly declaring himself an atheist on Facebook, was released from prison on Jan. 27.
Aan, a 30-year-old former civil servant, posted statements and pictures on the social networking site stating that he was a member of the Minang atheist Facebook group, which some considered insulting to Islam and Prophet Muhammad.
On Jan. 20, 2012, Aan was charged under Article 28(2) of the Electronic Information and Transaction Law for disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hostility and Criminal Code articles 156a(a) and 156a(b) for blasphemy and for encouraging others to embrace atheism.
Besides being sentenced to prison, Aan was also fined Rp 100 million rupiah (US$8,190).
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an NGO focusing on religious freedom, said in a press statement that it had visited Aan in prison twice while investigating violations of freedom of religion or belief and threats to religious harmony in Indonesia. The CSW had advocated for Aan’s release.
Benedict Rogers of the CSW said Aan’s release was a huge relief and he urged the government to seriously consider reviewing the Blasphemy Law and other pieces of legislation that violated freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.
“We hope that Indonesia will protect, promote and expand the principles of religious pluralism set out in Pancasila so that they apply equally to all Indonesians, and ensure that no one is unjustly imprisoned for their beliefs in the future.”
Here is Alexander’s Story Following the Initial Arrest 2 Years Ago:
Only One “Religion” Persecutes Atheists..
The Others Help Set Them Free.
Don’t Judge ALL Religions the Same.
by, Our Pakistan Correspondent | Morning Star News
Shouting that he was killing “an infidel who blasphemed against Muhammad,” a Muslim in Karachi on Saturday (Sept. 14) slit a Christian’s throat as police and others looked on, according to the slain man’s son.
George Masih told Morning Star News that his father, 58-year-old Boota Masih, worked as a gold scavenger in Karachi’s Liaquatabad Gold Market for 30 years, and that the Muslim who killed him also gathered gold dust from jewellers’ rugs or work carpets at the market.
Police informed the family that a Muslim, later identified as Muhammad Asif, had killed Boota Masih by slitting his throat with a dagger and then stabbing him multiple times.
“We were told that Asif kept shouting that my father was an infidel and had spoken derogatory words against Muhammad [Islam’s prophet] as he mercilessly stabbed him,” Masih said. “A large number of people, including four policemen and private security guards of the market, witnessed the entire scene, but no one tried to stop the killer, who walked away waving the dagger in his hand.”
A police spokesman told Morning Star News that the four policemen stationed at the market said they were not present at the scene of the murder.
Masih said the family had registered case No. 226/13 with the Liaquatabad Police Station, but that police were making little effort to arrest the murderer. Liaquatabad, a bastion of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement party accused of involvement in Karachi crime rings, is notorious for abductions, extortion and murders/assassinations. Boota and his family live in another area.
“We asked everyone in the market if my father had said or done anything to deserve such a brutal death, but not one person complained against him,” he said. “They all said that he was a humble man and had never committed blasphemy as alleged by the killer. But if my father was innocent, why did the people just stand there and watch him being killed in this manner?”
He added that when police came to the murder scene, no one came forward to record a statement.
“Even if my father had said something to offend the killer, is this how he should have been punished?” he said. “The entire market testifies to his humility, but not one of them has come on the record to bear witness to the crime.”
Masih said that the police attitude had not changed, as officers had yet to make an arrest.
“After my father’s killing in the presence of so many people, it is quite clear that any Muslim can get away with murder just by claiming that they had killed a blasphemer,” he said.
Liaquatabad Jewellers Association General Secretary Muhammad Faraz indicated Boota Masih was likely killed out of jealousy.
“I was not present at the crime scene, but all of us are sure that Masih was not a blasphemer,” Faraz said. “Asif was jealous of Masih because most jewellers only allowed the Christian to scavenge gold particles from their shops. He was a humble man and liked by everyone, which probably provoked Asif to kill him. We condemn the killing of an innocent man in the name of our Holy Prophet.”
Sub-Inspector Hamid Ali Gondal, who is investigating the case, told Morning Star News that investigations showed that Asif had used the blasphemy accusation against the Christian as a pretext to kill Masih.
“Asif is absconding since the murder – we have made several raids and also taken some of his relatives into custody to pressure him into surrendering,” he said. “Only when we arrest Asif will the real reason behind Masih’s murder be revealed.”
Gondal denied that police were lax in pursuing the case.
“This is absolutely untrue,” he said. “We are trying our best, but you know the law-and-order situation in Karachi. The entire police force is always on its toes because of the bloodshed and violence in the city, but be assured that we will arrest the killer.”
Asked why there weren’t any witnesses in the case even though the murder was committed in the presence of a large number of people including policemen, Gondal said it was not unusual as people fear retribution.
“You cannot force anyone to testify against someone,” he said. “I asked the police guards deployed at the market, and they denied even being at the crime scene at the time of the incident. The Sindh government recently passed the Witness Protection Act, but you very well know that no matter how many laws are passed, no one can guarantee security to life and property in our country, especially in Karachi.”
Boota Masih fathered five daughters and two sons.
“Only when they arrest Asif will we come to know why he killed my father,” George Masih said. “My younger brother and I have stopped going to work, fearing someone will kill us just like they killed my father.”
by, Xinhua | The Global Times
Four Bangladeshi bloggers have been indicted by a court in capital Dhaka Sunday on charges of making ” derogatory comments about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)” on social media.
In April this year, police arrested the bloggers, Asif Mohiuddin, Moshiur Rahman Biplob, Subrata Adhikari Shuvo and Russel Parvez, on charge of hurting religious sentiments.
After framing charges, Judge Md Zahirul Haque of the Metropolitan Session Judge’s Court on Sunday fixed Nov. 6 to start the trial in two cases against the four bloggers, who are now on bail and already pleaded not guilty and demanded justice.
If convicted, they will face 14 years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of 10 million taka (about $125,000) in maximum.
Detective Branch of Bangladesh Police in April submitted probe reports against the bloggers, accusing them of hurting religious sentiments.
Since the death of blogger Ahmed Rajib, 35, who along with many others spearheaded Bangladesh’s Shahbag Square movement, a series of blog posts described as anti-Islamic have circulated, although their authorship has so far remained unclear.
Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death near his home in Dhaka on February 15.
by, Jonathan Zettel, CTVNews.ca
Immigration minister Jason Kenney tells CTV News he personally intervened to help a young Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, who has fled Pakistan with her parents and settled in Canada due to concerns for her safety.
Rimsha Masih and her family left Pakistan in March, after she had been locked up in maximum security prison for several weeks last August.
The girl, believed to be between the ages of 11 and 14, was accused of burning Islam’s holy book. Her case drew international attention to Pakistan’s severe blasphemy laws.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he personally intervened to help a young girl accused of blasphemy. (CTV National News)
She was later acquitted, after a local Muslim cleric was thought to have framed her.
“This was an extraordinary example of brutal persecution,” Kenney told CTV News. “Rimsha was accused of blasphemy which was completely trumped up by people in her local village.”
Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, a Muslim cleric who lobbied for Masih’s release from prison, said it was troubling she had to flee her homeland.
“I am sad that this innocent girl had to leave Pakistan. She had been acquitted by the court, and despite that it was not possible for her to live freely,” he said.
The case has received international attention because of the girl’s young age, and there are questions surrounding her mental abilities.
Due to safety concerns, the Masih family’s exact whereabouts in Canada are being kept secret.
In recent months entire villages have been burned in a series of attacks on minority Christians.
editorial footnote: We thank our loving Lord thy God for this beautiful little girls rescue and transfer to safety. We also say “thank you so much” to Jason Kenney, Immigration Minister of Canada. What a great man he is. He truly is his brother’s keeper. We also say “thank you” to everyone else that was involved in this operation. May the Masih family now experience true peace.
Thirty two people were killed and hundreds injured as a rally in the capital of Bangladesh turned violent. Police used tear gas to disperse thousands of Islamist protesters in the streets of Dhaka who demanded execution for “blasphemous” blogging.
The protesters are reportedly the activists from the Hefajat-e-Islam group, which blames some Internet users for blasphemy; accusing people of using their blogs to spread atheism and apparent lies about Islam.
“One point, One demand: Atheists must be hanged”, chanted the demonstrators as they marched along at least six highways, blocking transport between Dhaka and other cities and towns.
The demonstrators gathered in the capital’s Motijheel commercial district, amounting to between 150,000 to 200,000 people according to AFP. On their way, they set shops and vehicles on fire, according to police accounts.
Islamist protestors run as Bangladeshi police fire rubber bullets towards demonstrators during clashes with Islamists in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters after they reportedly set off homemade explosives and threw stones at security. Local authorities had to deploy more than 15,000 security forces to the area.
The members of the radical Islamist group demanded the death penalty for those who they think defame Islam. The 13-point list of demands also included a ban on the right of women to work outside the household and the prohibition for women to mix with men. The Islamists also demanded the release of those accused of war crimes during country’s liberation war in 1971, which established the sovereign nation of Bangladesh.
Civilian people carry an injured Islamist protestor during clashes with police in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
The government of Bangladesh has declined the group’s demands to enact an anti-blasphemy law saying that the country lives by secular liberal laws. The leaders of Hefajat-e-Islam promised to launch a campaign to dethrone the government unless their demands are met.
The radical Islamist group was formed in 2010 to protest the government’s secular policies in education and politics. Last month it organized a general strike as well as a gathering attended by hundreds of thousands of activists, during three people died and more than 50 were injured.
Bangladeshi police baton charge Islamists during clashes in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
Islamists march in the street in Dhaka during a protest in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
Bangladeshi police fire rubber bullets towards demonstrators during clashes with Islamists in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
Civilian people carry an injured Islamist protestor during clashes with police in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)
Bangladeshi police fire rubber bullets towards demonstrators during clashes with Islamists in Dhaka on May 5, 2013. (AFP Photo/Munir uz Zaman)