Saturday, 20 November 2010

Urgent appeal: Pakistani woman sentenced to death

UA: 241/10 Index: ASA 33/011/2010
Date: 18 November 2010

Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, has been sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws.

On 8 November, the 45-year-old mother of five children was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death under Section 295B and 295C of Pakistan’s Penal Code, for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, by a court in Nankana, around 75km (45 miles) west of the city of Lahore in Punjab province.

Aasia Bibi, a resident of Ittanwali, was arrested in June 2009. She was working as a farm labourer and was asked by a village elder’s wife to fetch drinking water. Some other female Muslim farmhands reportedly refused to drink the water, saying it was sacrilegious and “unclean” to accept water from Aasia Bibi, as a non-Muslim. Aasia Bibi took offence, reportedly saying: “are we not human?” which led to an argument between them. The women allegedly complained to Qari Salim, the local cleric, that Aasia Bibi had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. The cleric informed local police who arrested and charged her with insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Aasia Bibi denies the allegations and her husband, Ashiq Masih, claims her conviction was based on “false accusations”. However, the trial judge, Naveed Iqbal, “totally ruled out” the possibility of false charges and said that there were “no mitigating circumstances”. Aasia Bibi has now filed an appeal against the judgment in the Lahore High Court. She has been detained in prison and held in isolation since June 2009. She has claimed that she has not had access to a lawyer during her detention and the final day of her trial.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English, Urdu or your own language:
* calling on President Zardari to commute the death sentence use his powers under Article 45 of the Constitution;
* calling for the immediate release of Aasia Bibi, unless she is charged with internationally regognizable offences and tried in proceedings and under laws that meet international human rights standards;
* calling on the authorities to take immediate measures to guarantee the safety of Aasia Bibi and her family;
* expressing concern that the blasphemy laws are used indiscriminately against religious minorities and Muslims alike, and urging the government to amend or abolish laws, particularly section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code which carries the death penalty for anyone found guilty of blasphemy;
* calling on the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take Suo Moto notice of the case;
* urging the government to fulfil its pledge to review and improve “laws detrimental to religious harmony”, announced by Prime Minister Giliani in August 2009; and
* calling for an immediate moratorium on all executions in the country, in line with the worldwide trends to abolish the death penalty with a view to an eventual abolition of the death penalty.

President Zardari
Pakistan Secretariat, Islamabad, Pakistan
Fax: +92-51-9207458
Salutation: Dear President Zardari

Dr. Zaheeruddin Babar Awan
Federal Minister
Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs
Room 305, S-Block, Pakistan Secretariat, Islamabad, Pakistan
Fax: +92 51 9202628
Salutation: Dear Minister

Copies to:
Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
Chief Justice of Pakistan
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Islamabad, Pakistan
Fax: +92-51-9213452
Salutation: Dear Chief Justice Chaudhry

Copies to (for letters from Australia):
Her Excellency Miss Fauzia NASREEN
High Commissioner
High Commission for Pakistan
4 Timbarra Crescent
O'Malley ACT 2606
Fax: (02) 6290 1073
Salutation: Your Excellency

Please check with if sending appeals after the above date.

No comments: