Judge directs authorities to allow access to Christian death row convict
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS – August 25, 2015) — A Pakistani court has directed the Punjab provincial government and police to give the father of death row convict Asia Bibi prison visitation rights, a family lawyer says.
According to http://www.ucanews.com/ , a respected Asia-based news service, the directive comes two days after Soran Masih filed a petition in the Lahore High Court demanding access to his daughter.
Masih said authorities had repeatedly blocked him from the prison following Bibi’s conviction for blasphemy in 2012.
“Judge Muhammad Anwar ul Haq issued directives to the jail superintendent of Multan and the Home Department to let Soran Masih and his family members see Asia Bibi,” Sardar Mushtaq Gill, Masih’s lawyer, told ucanews.com on August 25, 2015.
“We are thankful to the high court for a swift action on our petition,” Gill said.
He said Masih and other close family members could now visit Bibi when they want.
She is being held in the central Pakistani city of Multan, some 290 kilometers from Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province.
Bibi, a Christian mother-of-five, was sentenced to death in 2010 for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, a charge she denies. Bibi says she was targeted after drinking water from a vessel used by Muslim farmworkers.
The workers said it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same container and later reported her for blasphemy, saying she had insulted the Prophet Mohammad.
Her appeal against the death sentence is currently pending in the Supreme Court.
Pakistan’s top court has suspended the execution of Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, after agreeing to hear her appeal.
A three-judge bench on July 22 ordered a halt to the execution pending the outcome of the appeal.
Bibi was arrested in Sheikhupura district of Punjab province in 2009 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammad, a charge she denies.
A trial court subsequently charged Bibi with blasphemy and sentenced her to death in November 2010.
Bibi says she was targeted after she drank water from a vessel fellow Muslim workers were using.
She was told it was forbidden for Christians to drink water from the same vessel.
Several workers complained to a cleric that she had insulted Muhammad prompting an angry mob to attack her, she says.
The blasphemy charges followed soon after, she said.
In October last year, the Lahore High Court dismissed Bibi’s appeal and upheld her death sentence. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, then appealed to Pakistan’s president for clemency and filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.
The court is yet to set a date to hear the appeal, Bibi’s lawyer, Saif ul Malook, told ucanews.com.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace, the human rights body of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.
The Supreme Court is the highest judicial forum and we are very much hopeful that justice will prevail and Asia Bibi will walk free,” Cecil Chaudhry, the commission’s executive director, told ucanews.com.
“It is a positive thing that the Supreme Court has decided to review Asia Bibi’s case,” he said.
Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law has drawn international condemnation as well as criticism within Pakistan. Former Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer and minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, were both assassinated after they spoke out against the misuse of controversial blasphemy law and called for reforms.
Photo captions: 1) Three of Ms. Bibi’s daughters hold a picture of their mother. 2) Asia Bibi with her husband and two of their children. 3) Pakistani Christians protest Asia Bibi’s death sentence. 4) Dan Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books.
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