by, Zee News | h/t Glen Roberts @ Trop
LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of a minority Christian woman over blasphemy as it admitted her plea challenging the conviction, in a case that sparked international outrage over the controversial law.
A three-member panel of judges heard the case in Supreme Court’s Lahore registry and admitted Asia Bibi’s petition for full hearing after initial arguments by her defence lawyer besides staying her execution till the matter is adjudicated.
Bibi, a mother of five, had a quarrel over a bowl of water with fellow Muslim women while working on a crop field in Punjab province.
She was accused of uttering blasphemous words in the heat of arguments, which she denied.
The Asia Bibi Case:
Bibi was arrested in 2009 for allegedly passing the blasphemous remarks and convicted in 2010. Her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore High Court in October last year which she challenged in the Supreme Court.
No date had been set for the execution.
Bibi’s death sentence had sparked outrage among international human rights groups, which condemned Pakistan’s blasphemy law as a source of persecution against religious minorities.
Blasphemy laws were introduced by military rulers Zia-ul- Haq in 1980s and people accused under the laws are also targeted by extremists.
When governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer criticised these laws in a meeting with Bibi after her first conviction, he first faced immense criticism from extremists and was later killed by his police guard in 2011.
Shama Bibi (left) and Shahzad Masih, a Christian couple and parents of three children, were burned to death by a Muslim lynch mob in Pakistan because of a false blasphemy accusation. Photo courtesy of: Gatestone Institute
by, Mohshin Habib | Gatestone Institute
“The mob beat them and broke their legs so they would not be able to flee. “They picked them up by their arms and legs and held them over the brick furnace until their clothes caught fire. And then they threw them inside the furnace.” — Javed Maseeh, family spokesman, to NBC News.
The attack was not an isolated one. Rather it seems to be part of systematic killings, community by community.
Imagine you are a person of Christian faith living as a citizen in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: every moment your life is at risk. Imagine a Pakistani Muslim shouting that you have burned a page of holy Quran when you have not; or accusing you of having desecrated the Prophet Mohammed: you have hardly any chance of saving yourself. There would be no question of providing evidence or proof against you. You would be killed either by the mob or by the country’s legal system.
If you were one of the 3% minority Christians of Pakistan, you would fear for your life every moment among the majority Muslims; any one of them could shout and point at you as the Nazi collaborators did during the Second World War against the Jews. You inevitably would be beaten to death by your fellow countrymen.
This month in Pakistan, a Christian couple and their unborn child were burned to death, because of a false accusation of burning pages of a Quran.
Local villagers, called through the mosque’s loudspeakers, came by the hundreds. They tore apart the room where Shama Bibi and her husband, Shahzad Masih, had taken shelter and took the couple out by force.
The mob beat them and broke their legs so they would not be able to flee. They were then held over an open kiln until their clothes caught fire. “They picked them up by the arms and legs and held them over the brick kiln until their clothes caught fire. And then they threw them inside the furnace,” according to Javed Maseeh, a spokesman for the family. When Shama’s clothes would not burn, the mob wrapped her in cotton “so she would set alight faster.”
As is typical in these cases, a Muslim man said that he had witnessed Shama Bibi, 24, a Christian mother of three and four months pregnant, burning pages of a Quran. The accuser went to the neighboring villages in the Kasur district and incited the Muslims against her and her husband. On November 12, 2014, about 1,000-2,000 people from five nearby villages gathered at the clay kiln in the village of Chak (south of Lahore), where the couple lived and worked as indentured laborers.
While the Masihs were burning to death and crying out their innocence, the mob was shouting “Allahhu Akbar!” (“Allah is Greater!”), “Death to the blasphemer!” and “Kill the infidel Christians!”
The murders followed reports that Shama Bibi had carried out a cleansing ritual on Sunday evening, after the death of her father-in-law. She had collected some unneeded possessions of the deceased and burned them.
This incident is not an isolated one. Rather, seems to be part of systematic killings, community by community.
People of a country learn their way of life in the light of the country’s laws. Many people around the word consider that the constant slaughtering of Christians in Pakistan is morally supported by the country’s destructive blasphemy law, used and often abused whether anyone has blasphemed or not. Pakistan’s Penal Code states that the desecration of the Quran is punishable by life imprisonment under section 295c, while insulting Muhammad can merit the death penalty.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, in his reaction to the murder of the couple, said, “The murderers of Christian couple will be brought to justice. It is unacceptable. A responsible state cannot tolerate mob rule and public lynching with impunity.”
Many, however, assumed Sharif’s statement to be nothing but parroted rubbish. Father James Channan, coordinator of the United Religions Initiative and director of the Peace Center of the Dominican Order in Pakistan, said,” Our present government has the worst record of not punishing the culprits of these cases. All of them are set free after a short time. There is a big question for us: Where is justice?” He stated what has long been known, that Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws were subject to widespread abuse and were frequently invoked to settle personal scores.
The president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, Dr. Nazir Bhatti, said, “There are blasphemy cases registered in more than a dozen police stations. While the courts have ordered the arrest of one Muslim media station boss and another Muslim artist from a TV channel, they are enjoying a police escort and attending meetings, and no one dares to arrest them. But one false allegation of blasphemy, and the police put Christians behind bars, and courts award them death sentences. That practice indicates that blasphemy laws are only legislated to target religious minorities in Pakistan.”
He added that in Pakistan, blasphemy laws are a license to kill Christians at the hands of Muslims.
“The incidents of violence against Pakistani Christians and the Ahmaddyia community have risen to 200% after becoming PML in power in the province of Punjab,” said Dr. Bhatti. The Chief Minister of Punjab province, Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) [PML-N], is the younger brother of Pakistan’s current Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, commonly known as the Lion of Punjab. Both Prime Minister Sharif and his brother were extremely loyal to the late General Zia-ul-Haq, who was solely liable for introducing the harsher blasphemy laws in early 1980s. In the period of 1984-2004, 964 people were charged with blasphemy, including 119 Christians.
Among those charged with blasphemy, 35 people were killed extra-judicially. About 81% percent, or two million, of Pakistan’s Christian population live in Punjab province.
Moreover, the fundamentalist madrassa schools of Pakistan have become an influential power supporting the blasphemy laws. Pakistan has 16,059 high schools and 15,725 madrassas. Total madrassa attendance stands at 1.5 million students, while the regular schools have 1.6 million students. These religious schools are producing a particular world-view called Alem-e-kufr (the World of Infidels). The concept of these religious schools is: “The world is divided into two antagonistic parts: the Islamic world, and the infidel world. With little common ground between them both, clash is eternal, natural and unavoidable, because the forces of evil and forces of good are predestined to be at war. The West is after us, they want to destroy Muslims, Islam and our culture.”
Sadly, the leadership and media of the West do not even notice that three million Christians in Pakistan live in fear for their lives. While some international organizations are struggling to make blasphemy laws obsolete, the world’s most powerful leaders have been mostly silent about these crimes.
Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti remarked in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama that the U.S. Administration — the custodian of human rights, liberty and freedom of speech and expression around the world — did not even bother to condemn the horrific murder of the Christian couple by Islamic extremists in Pakistan. Moreover, the U.S. State Department has never uttered any comments at all about Christian persecution or the genocide of Christians.
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.
Please sign the petition at the link below calling for the immediate release of Asia Bibi:
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 !