By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service
MULTAN, PAKISTAN (ANS – June 8, 2015) — Asia Bibi, the 50-year-old Pakistani woman who has been imprisoned for five years for alleged blasphemy, has been vomiting blood, according to reports from her family.
And now comes the news from The Catholic Herald (www.catholicherald.co.uk) , that Ms. Bibi, the Christian woman on death row for five years, has been transferred to a different prison.
She was sentenced to death in November 2010, following accusations of blasphemy from a group of Muslim women who refused to let her drink water from the same well. She has always denied the accusations. Pakistani authorities have ignored an international outcry and calls for her release.
Her family says that she is suffering from intestinal bleeding and needs medical care. They say she is “so weak she can hardly walk”. They visited her a few days ago, having not seen her for over a month while traveling in Europe trying to secure her release.
During that time, Pope Francis met with Asia Bibi’s family in April, saying: “I pray for Asia, for you and for all Christians who are suffering.”
A source told the GlobalDispatch.com that Asia Bibi was vomiting blood, having difficulty eating and had a constant pain in her chest. “Therefore it is necessary that Asia Bibi be submitted as soon as possible for a full medical checkup,” the source said.
“Lawyers of Asia Bibi have taken the necessary legal actions [for her] to receive timely medical treatment and is transferred to the prison in Lahore, which can provide more adequate health care and [where] she would be closer to her family, who have to travel for several hours from Lahore to Multan.”
In the meantime, a petition calling for the release of Ms. Bibi, has topped half a million signatures. The online petition calls for the release of the mother-of-five, who was condemned to death in November 2010. She was convicted of blasphemy after a heated conversation with Muslim co-workers.
The campaign received a surge in support recently, with the number of signatures rising to more than 570,000.
This petition, one of many that have been started by different groups and individuals, was organized by university student Emily Clarke, who was moved by the plight of Asia Bibi, the first woman to be sentenced to death in Pakistan.
Commenting in the Catholic Herald on the latest surge in support, she said: “The latest increase is incredible – and shows that people have not forgotten Asia Bibi even though she was sentenced to death over four years ago, for a crime she steadfastly denies.”
She made her remarks to Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted Christians, which backs the campaign.
Miss Clarke added: “People who stand up for Asia Bibi in Pakistan put their lives at risk. In 2011 two politicians were killed for speaking out against Pakistan’s barbaric blasphemy laws.”
They were Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab (early 2011), and Shahbaz Bhatti (March 2011), national minorities’ minister who at the time, was the only Christian in the Pakistan cabinet, were both shot dead because of their support for Asia Bibi.
She added: “This makes it more important than ever that the international community stands together to show our support for Asia and for the people putting their lives at risk to save her.”
The High Court in Lahore upheld the death sentence in October of last year. Asia Bibi’s family is making a last chance appeal to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need UK said: “It is important we do everything we can to get real justice for Asia Bibi and save her life.
“We need the UK government and international community to get behind her plight as well as continuing to encourage the Pakistani authorities for a fair review of the case.”
Asia Bibi was found guilty of blasphemy under Article 295C of Pakistan’s penal laws which impose a death sentences for offences of defamation against Mohammed.
Photo captions: 1) Asia Bibi. 2) The daughters of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi hold a photo of their mother (CNS). 3) Dan Wooding doing a TV report.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He was given an award some time back by the British Pakistani Christian Association for his reporting on persecuted Christians in Pakistan.
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