By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Pakistani authorities have reopened the trial against a mentally challenged Christian girl on charges of “blasphemy” while a Christian mother faces a possible death sentence for allegedly making “derogatory remarks” about Islam’s prophet Mohammed, lawyers told BosNewsLife Saturday, March 23.
“A police investigator asked the Supreme Court in Islamabad to reopen the case” against Rimsha Masih, 14, “saying he was pressured by the government to drop charges against her after an international outcry,” said the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) group.
Rimsha was jailed August 17 in a prison near Islamabad, the capital, after allegedly burning pages with verses of the Koran, viewed as holy book by Muslims. Her detention at Adiala Jail triggered international protests because of her age and a medical report confirming that she was mentally handicapped.
Amid mounting pressure, Rimsha was flown to safety on September 8 and eventually acquitted on the charges, though she remains in hiding. On the outskirts of Islamabad families are afraid to return to their Christian community in the city’s Mehrabadi district because the girl lived there.
Besides Rimsha, who may face life imprisonment, a court is also considering a death sentence against 47-year-old Martha Bibi after years of legal wrangling, BosNewsLife learned.
Bibi, who is married and has 7 children, will face a court in the city of Lahore on March 27, said her lawyer Mushtaq Gill.
“She was detained in January 2007 in her village of Kot Nanak Sigh for allegedly making “derogatory remarks” about Prophet Mohammed in an argument with a Muslim woman,” explained Gill, who is also director of the LEAD advocacy group.
Bibi has always strongly denied the charges.
The blasphemy case was registered at a nearby police station where she “was arrested and put behind bars after being beaten and tortured by Muslims,” the lawyer said.
Though he managed to get her released on bail of 100,000 Pakistani Rupee ($1,000) three months later, she remained concerned about her future, he said.
“The six years of waiting on a possible death sentence has made her sick,” Gill told BosNewsLife “I just met her as we prepared for the trial at the Lahore High Court and she was very tense,” he added.
Gill said the latest legal challenges are part of efforts by authorities to defend the controversial blasphemy laws in the country.
If she is sentenced to death, she will be the second woman in Pakistan facing execution for blasphemy, he said. Asia Bibi, who is not related, has been awaiting her appeal against the death penalty for several years behind bars.
The latest blasphemy trials against Christians come shortly after as many as 180 Christian-owned homes, shops and two churches were burned down by an angry Muslim mob in the city of Lahore this month.
Gill said his group is trying to free Christian Sawan Masih, 26, whose alleged “derogatory remarks” about Islam’s prophet triggered the March 8-9 riots in Lahore’s Joseph Colony.
There has been growing international pressure on Pakistan to overturn the blasphemy laws amid concerns they are misused against minorities, including Christians, or to settle personal disputes.
Fifty two of the accused and their supporters have been murdered in the last two decades, according to rights activists. Even in police custody blasphemy suspects are not safe.
In December last year, an angry mob reportedly broke into a police station in Sindh province and beat a blasphemy suspect to death. He had been accused of burning pages of the Koran.
Earlier in Ahmedpur East in July 2012, a man accused of throwing pages of the Koran on the street was dragged by crowds from a police cell and killed, after being pulled through the streets behind a motorbike.
Two politicians, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, and Christian federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were assassinated in 2011 for criticizing the country’s blasphemy legislation.
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Dr. Afia Siddiqui is being cruelly tortured in US. Have you any word for her and her children??????????
Mohammad Arif, yes the word is “Don’t be a terrorist and don’t believe what your government tells you is going on”
As to the situation in Pakistan they are only being Muslim. There is no easy cure since Islam like Christianity requires you to hate everyone who is different. It’s what religion is for and until all religion is gone this is what you’re going to get.
Mohammed Arif…..Afia Siddiqyi was actually recorded saying hateful things, and planning, terroirst attacks. She was arrested in Ghazni, Afghanistan with documents and notes for making bombs plus containers of sodium cyanide. Siddiqui was indicted in New York Federal District Court in September 2008 on charges of attempted murder and assault stemming from an incident from an interview with US authorities in Ghazni, charges which Siddiqui has strenuously denied. After 18 months in detention, she was tried and convicted in early 2010 and sentenced to 86 years.
A confirmed terrorist.
Panikos….I am a Christian and I don’t remember reading anything about “go and kill the non-Christians.” In fact we were taught to “Love thy neighbor” “Love your brothers as you would love yourself.” I don’t see Christians killing minorities in Africa, in fact I see and read about Islamists slaughtering and burning, and torturing Christians thorough out North Africa and the Middle East. Your comparison is invalid.
Absolutely, right. I m also a christian but I Never had the teaching of killing and slaughtering.Even not in thoughts. So Dear Islamic brothers just think of love and patience in your thoughts and acts. Try to understand the real theme of Religion, kindly do not manipulate your religion according to your own coursed ideas.
God Bless you all and Help you understand the real meaning of life.
I will find you, muhammad arif