Final appeal for death row Christian
Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi (pictured) has been on death row since 2010 simply for telling her co-workers about Jesus. For that she was accused and convicted under Pakistan’s widely misused blasphemy laws.
Her final appeal to the country’s Supreme Court is due next week.
If her death sentence is upheld by the court then her only hope would be a presidential pardon.
Asia, a wife and mother, is not alone in having suffered under these laws. Minorities such as Christians are often the target of accusations, sometimes made just to settle personal scores.
That is why we are again running a petition calling on Pakistan’s Government to repeal them.
Please sign the petition and forward the link to your contacts. We will be presenting the petition to the Pakistan authorities soon so please act NOW to help end these unjust laws.
Christian mother, Asia Bibi, has spent the last 5 years on death row in Pakistan after being accused and convicted of blasphemy. The crime of blasphemy is a capital offence, but the law is often misused in Pakistan to eliminate rivals, seek revenge, or persecute religious minorities. Last year, Asia Bibi’s death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court. All that is left is an appeal to Pakistan Supreme Court.
- Pray continually for Asia Bibi’s release
- Pray for the provision and protection of Asia’s five children and husband during this time of trial
- Pray the international community will raise their voice on behalf of Asia Bibi and stop Pakistan’s persecution of religious minorities
The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil has been speaking to the family of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi
PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi’s husband pleads for Presidential pardon
21st November, 2014
Asia Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih has written an open letter pleading for the President of Pakistan to pardon Asia, so that she and her family can move to safety in France.
In the letter, Ashiq Masih says that his wife’s only hope now is an official pardon from President Mamnoon Hussain, as Lahore’s High Court confirmed Asia’s death sentence for blasphemy on 16 October 2014. It is unlikely that the President will issue a pardon because of extreme pressure from Islamists, but it is also unlikely that Asia will be executed as long as Pakistan maintains the unofficial moratorium on executions that has been in place since 2008. However, prisoners convicted of blasphemy risk being attacked or killed by fellow inmates or even guards, and their families outside prison are at risk of attack too.
“We have changed five residences during the last five years,” said Ashiq Masih in a recent interview that he and two daughters, Esham and Esha, gave to MailOnline. “The blasphemy accusation on my wife has ruined our family.” Calling on the Pope and President Obama to help secure Asia’s release, he said: “We need help from all quarters. Barack Obama should play a positive role and convince the Pakistani government to ensure justice in Asia’s case.”
The family has struggled to look after Esha, who has difficulties with speech and walking. In the interview, she said: “I miss my mother too much.” Esha and Esham attend a private school run by Joseph Nadeem, a Christian educationist who has been helping the family since December 2010. “Esham is a brilliant student,” he said. “But she goes through spells of depression regularly.”
Esham, who visits her mother once a month in prison, said: “It is tough living without her. I hope she would soon be released and would celebrate Christmas with us. I love my mother and miss her a lot. I request everybody to pray for her.”
Letter from Ashiq Masih
Yesterday, I returned from the prison in Multan where my wife, Asia Bibi, was transferred eight months ago. Since Asia was sentenced to death in November 2010 for drinking a glass of water from our village well, my family has lived in constant fear and under death threats. I live in hiding with my five children as near as possible to Asia. She needs us very much to help keep her alive, to bring her medicine and good food when she is sick.
After my wife had spent four long years in prison in terrible conditions, we were hoping that the High Court of Lahore would free my wife. She did not commit blasphemy, never. Since the court confirmed the death sentence on the 16th of October, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance. We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbors are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. But for some years now the situation in Pakistan has changed because of just a few people, and we are afraid. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.
We are now trying our best to present the final case to the Supreme Court before the 4th of December. But we are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mammon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.
My five children and I have only survived thanks to the protection of a few faithful friends who risk their lives daily to help us. We are the husband and family of Asia Bibi and many people want us to die. Thanks to our friend Anne-Isabelle Tollet [a French journalist who wrote a memoir with Asia Bibi, “Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water”], who has become our sister and helped us for four years now, we speak often about what is happening in Paris and the world to help save Asia. Hearing that people are supporting Asia from so far away is so important for us. It helps us to hold on. Every time I visit Asia in prison I tell her the news. Sometimes it gives her the courage to keep going.
Just before taking the ten-hour journey to visit Asia, I learned the wonderful news that Paris is offering to welcome Asia and our family to Paris if she is freed. This is a huge honour and we are very humbled. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to you, Madam Mayor of Paris, and to say that we are immensely grateful for your concern. I hope that one day we will visit you alive, and not dead. [Madam Mayor refers to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has offered her support to Asia.]
When I visited Asia Bibi yesterday she asked me to give you this message:
“My prison cell has no windows and day and night are the same to me, but if I am still holding on today it is thanks to everyone who is trying to help me. When my husband showed me the photographs of people I have never met drinking a glass of water for me, my heart overflowed. Ashiq told me that the city of Paris is offering to welcome our family. I send my deepest thanks to you Madam Mayor, and to all the kind people of Paris and across the world. You are my only hope of staying alive in this dungeon, so please don’t abandon me. I did not commit blasphemy.”
Ashiq Masih, Pakistan, 17 November 2014
(Guardian, MailOnline, New York Times)
Now there needs to be as big an international outcry as there was with Miriam Ibrahim of Sudan!
Pakistan: Open Doors calls for prayer for Asia Bibi
This is Asia Bibi, who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, with the assassinated Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer – he was killed after publicly supporting her in 2011. Please pray for safety for Asia, her family, her legal team, and for a judge who will not be afraid to grant her freedom when she takes her appeal to the Supreme Court. Read more
22 October 2014
Following Asia Bibi’s appeal hearing last week, where her death sentence for alleged blasphemy was upheld by the Pakistani High Court, Open Doors is calling on the church to pray and intercede on Asia’s behalf as she prepares to take her appeal to the Supreme Court.
We are in contact with diplomats around the world to highlight Asia’s case. “The international community is already convinced that Asia is a typical case of abuse of the Blasphemy Law and should be released,” an Open Doors spokesperson has said. “We need to pray for influential people in this country that they will be able to release Asia and at the same time prevent havoc and targeted attacks.”
Two dozen Islamic extremists were present at the Pakistani High Court last week, adding further pressure to the presiding judge. At Asia’s next appeal at the Supreme Court, outsiders will not be admitted to the court room, which has made Asia’s legal time slightly more hopeful. The rulings of the judges of the Supreme Court are very important, as their rulings create precedents for lower courts.
However, Asia’s case is highly politicised, and there are fears that a ruling in Asia’s favour could lead to violence and even targeted murders. Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated in 2011 after showing support for Asia.
“We hope that the Pakistani government and judicial system find a way out for Asia,” our spokesperson says. “It is a country with brave people. Rimsha Masih, a then 12-year-old girl, was arrested in August 2012 on the same charge of blasphemy. However, it was soon found that she was falsely accused and she was literally airlifted out of prison, reunited with her family and relocated to a safe location. Another brave Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, was even awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month after having been shot by the Taliban for promoting the educational rights of young girls. She was also brought into safety. We pray that God will make the same thing happen for Asia.”
Asia has spent much of the last five years in solitary confinement to protect her from other inmates, and even some of the guards. Her family have gone into hiding. Even her legal team face threats to their careers, families, and lives. Please pray for Asia, her family, her legal team, and the judge who will hear her appeal, and ask your church to do the same.
Source: World Watch Monitor
- For protection for Asia, her family, and her legal team
- For wisdom for Asia’s legal team as they prepare her appeal
- That those who threaten violence if Asia is released will be silenced
- For God to work in the heart of the judge who will hear Asia’s case
- For freedom for Asia, and a safe place for her to go once she is released.
Asia Bibi’s Husband “Weeps Bitterly” After Death Sentence is Confirmed
Her husband Her daughters.
Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, was said to have been “weeping bitterly” after the Lahore High Court confirmed his wife’s death sentence last Thursday. In 2010, Asia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death for her crime against Islam. Since her conviction, she has been held on death row awaiting appeal. Now, her only option is to appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Will Asia finally be set free at the Supreme Court level?
10/21/2014 Pakistan (Christian Post) – Following the shocking news that the Pakistani High Court of Appeal in Lahore on Thursday, October 16, had confirmed the death sentence for Pakistani Christian mother, Asia Bibi, and dismissed her appeal, her husband, Ashiq Masih was said to be “weeping bitterly.”
According to Cath Martin in a story for Christian Today, Ashiq Masih, told Shamim Masih of the British Pakistani Christian Association: “This appeal was [a] ray of hope but the rejection of the appeal has shattered my confidence in the Pakistani legal system.”
According to Shamim Masih, Ashiq Masih was “weeping bitterly” when he met him after the hearing and told him Muslim clerics attending the hearing had shouted out “blasphemer” and “kill her.”
“I have not told my children about the court decision. How can I? I am too scared of their reaction – they are already very depressed. We all were expecting her to come home and now this happens,” said Ashiq Masih.
“How can I tell my children their mother is not free? This will kill them.”
Cath Martin then said that “Christians around the world have reacted with dismay to the news.”
She said that Bishop Rufin Anthony, of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, is appealing to Christians everywhere to pray for Bibi.
He said the court’s decision was “heartbreaking,” Vatican Radio reports.
Bibi’s lawyer, Sardar Mushtaq, told Associated Press they have 30 days to appeal. “We will continue this legal battle by approaching the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistani Christians spent Sunday praying for Bibi and are asking Christians around the world to remember her in their own prayers.
In neighboring India, the Bishop of Pune, Mgr. Thomas Dabre wrote in AsiaNews that the international community should hold the Pakistani government accountable.
“The Pakistan government cannot disown responsibility of this death sentence and should overturn immediately the death sentence of innocent Christian woman Asia Bibi,” he said.
“I would expect international authorities and bodies to make the Pakistan government withdraw this punishment as well as these draconian blasphemy laws, which betrays a mindset that are against present day affirmation of human rights.”
Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director David Griffiths said the court’s decision to uphold her death sentence was a “grave injustice.”
He went on to say, “Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place – still less sentenced to death.” The laws are often used to settle personal vendettas – both against members of minority religious groups and Muslims – while individuals facing charges are frequently targeted in mob violence.
“Those who speak out against the laws face terrible reprisals. However, the blasphemy laws violate international law and must be repealed or reformed immediately to meet international standards.”
Lahore High Court upheld the death penalty sentence for Asia Bibi (49yr), a Christian woman and mother of five convicted of blasphemy in 2010. That the execution by hanging could be carried out, instilling fear among Christian refugees who have fled the country to avoid a similar sentence.
Bibi’s attorney’s plan to submit a final appeal to the Supreme Court, but there are fears this process could last a number of years leaving the woman to sit in prison away from her children.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims have lead to mob violence on multiple occasions.
Two politicians former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Bibi’s trial as flawed.
The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009.
She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women laborers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl. During the dispute faith became a topic and it is claimed Bibi said, “Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins…Our Christ is alive.” Later the women went to a cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations, which Bibi claims as false.
Religious clerics including Qari Saleem who brought forward the initial complaint against Bibi was present at the court today.
“We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today’s verdict, it’s a victory of Islam,” Saleem told AFP outside the courtroom as the clerics congratulated each other and chanted religious slogans.
Pakistan’s unfair blasphemy law has had much criticism from human rights groups, which are misused to settle personal scores.
Lawyers who defend people accused of blasphemy and judges seen as lenient also risk being accused of the crime and regularly face pressure and intimidation, receive death threats, some have been murdered.
Increasingly in Pakistan, devoted Christians face persecution by Muslim militants or prosecution by authorities for blasphemy.
VOP is in the process of helping to rescue a family facing this same charge. The claim is false, but the entire family is facing extreme persecution, including a small child. They have been forced into hiding and must move from safe house to safe house for protection. Please consider partnering with us in the support, legal fees and other accumulating cost in helping this suffering family. We can’t do it without you!
In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Thank you for your support!
Asia Bibi’s young daughters tortured by blasphemy accusers
The two young daughters of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy, have spoken about their own violent treatment at the hands of their mother’s accusers.
Esham was just 9 years old when she was warned by friends that her mother was being attacked in the field where she worked as a berry picker.
“I rushed to the spot and found that she was being abused and tortured by men. They had even torn her clothes,” Esham, now 14, told the MailOnline.
After running home and returning with a new dress for her mother, Esham says the men began torturing her, too. They used offensive slurs and dragged the two women into the village. “We were both crying but there was nobody to listen to us,” she recalls.
The police arrived and told Esham to find her father, but he was too “terrified” to come, and by the time she returned, her mother had already been arrested and taken away.
Also speaking to the Mail, Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, said he is ashamed of his actions that day, but “I do not think it could have helped her or our family if I had tried to save her”.
“I might also have ended up in jail as a blasphemy-accused and there would be no one to help my daughters,” he said.
Masih has denounced the behaviour of his wife’s accusers, and says they even abused his now 15-year-old daughter Esha, who has special needs. “They became so cruel. They didn’t even spare my daughters and tortured them.”
The family is now too afraid to return to their home village for fear of retribution. “I have restricted my movement. I am afraid of being recognised as Asia’s husband in public,” Masih said.
“I have almost stopped communicating with Muslims. I am afraid they could recognise me. Just imagine how tough it will be for my wife to live in prison.”
However, a representative from persecution charity Release International warned that should she walk free, “extremists will be given encouragement to pursue their own line of assassination”.
Two people associated with Bibi’s defence have already been murdered. Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was killed by a member of his security team in January 2011 for opposing the blasphemy laws.
Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was also shot dead by gunmen who ambushed his car in March 2011.
Release’s Andrew Boyd said: “Both Asia and her family are at risk, whatever the law decides to do.”