Saturday, July 6, 2013

'Misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws is killing minorities,' says human rights organisation

Some 178 Christian homes were torched in a recent outbreak of violence

By Shahid Khan 
Special to ASSIST News Service

GLASGOW, UK (ANS) -- The escalating misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws is killing minorities in Pakistan, a UK-based human rights organisation is warning.

This pictures posted on a social networking site
says it all
Following the torching of 178 Christian homes in Pakistan due to allegations of blasphemy, the Global Minorities Alliance (, staged a protest outside the Scottish Parliament and launched a worldwide awareness campaign, which has so far received a massive response.

The trouble began in March of this year, when a highly-charged mob of between 3,000 and 4,000 extremists torched as many some 178 houses in the Christian-majority area of Joseph Colony, Badami Bagh, Lahore, over the weekend to "take revenge of the blasphemy" allegedly committed by a young Christian.

Eyewitnesses said that the mob broke into houses, looted them and burnt the remaining belongings on the roads. At least two police officers were reportedly injured when the mob pelted a police contingent with stones.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the violence was reportedly triggered by a blasphemy accusation made against a young Christian, Savan Masih.
"The unrest spiraled as word spread of the allegation and protestors demanded his arrest," said a spokesperson for CSW. "Police took him into custody today, but it is unclear whether or not he has been formally charged. At least one local religious leader has openly called for Savan to be killed."

The mob also attacked Savan's house, setting it on fire and pelting it with stones.

A protestor celebrates the burning
of Christian homes 
(Photo: Abid Nawaz/Express, Pakistan)
Nearly all the residents of Joseph Colony, home to around 150 Christian families, including women and children, hastily fled the area in anticipation of the attacks, some on the advice of local police.

The Alliance wrote letters to all the leaders of the G8, a forum for the governments of eight of the world's eleven largest national economies, who held their most recent summit in Northern Ireland on June 17th-18th, plus all representatives in the House of Lords, the House of Commons, the Scottish Parliament and the European Parliament prior to their demonstration over misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws on April 8, 2013.

Among the G8 countries, Germany, UK, Canada, and France responded to the Alliance and gave assurances of their dedication to protecting minorities' rights in countries where minorities are marginalized and discriminated against.

A letter from the office of the President of Germany, Joachim Gauck, expressed concern over the continuous misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws, stating that "prosecuting someone because of her and his belief is in clear violation of human rights." The Alliance was assured that Germany will impress the new political leadership in Pakistan to make reforms to ensure protection and safety of its citizens, as well as to focus on capacity development and training for the law enforcement agencies and the police.
The response from the offices of the Prime Ministers of both Canada and France acknowledged the Alliance's work to raise awareness of persecuted minorities, and stressed the need to safeguard rights of minorities.

The Alliance also received a response from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), condemning the continuous killings of innocent people on the basis of faith and ethnicity in Pakistan and offering assurances that the British Government will urge the Government of Pakistan to protect and guarantee the rights of its citizens.

To continue its awareness-raising campaign, the Alliance demonstrated in front of the Scottish Parliament onApril 8. They were joined by the Muslim Society of Edinburgh, the World Mission of the Church of Scotland, as well as members of public and other religious leaders from both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

"We are deeply concerned over the misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws, which has encouraged us to write to the international community in a bid to raise awareness. There has recently been an escalation in the use of Pakistan's blasphemy laws and this is killing minorities in Pakistan," said Mr. Manassi Bernard, the Alliance's Chief Executive.

The Alliance gave a thirty day ultimatum to the Government of Pakistan to rebuild torched houses in Joseph Colony, Lahore, where thousands of people attacked the Christian community following allegations of blasphemy on March 9, which led to 178 Christian houses being burnt to the ground.

The Global Minorities Alliance (GMA) has since received numerous letters from the UK House of Lords, the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament, plus religious leaders worldwide, expressing appreciation for the work of Global Minorities Alliance and solidarity with its ethos - to stand with the poor and the persecuted:

A letter received on the behalf of Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, from the Directorate for Local Government and Communities shared the concern of Global Minorities Alliance and dubbed blasphemy laws as a "sensitive" subject in Pakistan. It stated that the Scottish Government will encourage new Government in Pakistan to support interfaith dialogue and the reforms of the blasphemy laws.

Dave Thompson, Member of Scottish Parliament for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, wrote a letter to the Pakistan Consulate in Glasgow questioning the Pakistan Government's relief efforts for the victims of Joseph Colony tragedy, and requesting that measures be taken to stop such tragedies in the future.
The Archbishop of York (Photo: EPA/Stephen Pond)

The Ugandan-born Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, thanked the Alliance for their work in raising awareness about minorities in Pakistan and assured them he would raise the Alliance's concern at the highest possible level.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, also encouraged the work of the Alliance and commended the efforts of raising awareness about the persecuted minorities.

A letter from the European Parliament in Brussels also shared the Alliance's concerns.

"We would like to thank all those who have taken time and acknowledged the work of the Global Minorities Alliance to defend the defenseless and be the voice for those who are voiceless as we continue to further our struggle," said Manassi Bernard, the Alliance's Chief-Executive.

Rimsha Masih in this police picture taken after her arrest
I, as the Alliance's Vice-Chairperson, laud the efforts of Jason Kenny, the Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for facilitating the safe passage of teenager Rimsha Masih and her family into Canada. The family have been into hiding after she was released from blasphemy charges last year.

The Alliance's next step is to start an international campaign for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five on death row in Pakistan.

"We will not rest until she is released," said Shahzad Khan, the International Director for Interfaith and Dialogue.

About Global Minorities Alliance

Formed in 2012, the Global Minorities Alliance is a Glasgow-based human rights organisation, committed to raising the voice of minority communities around the world.

The Alliance works towards this commitment by campaigning for:

* Poverty alleviation
* Interfaith harmony
* Education
* Empowerment of women
* Reform of discriminatory laws
* Peaceful co-existence

As stated by me on the Global Minorities Alliance website "The absence of fairness, transparency, meritocracy and the rule of law in general in some countries leave minorities more vulnerable to abuse as the mighty and influential in these lawless lands take it as their birthright to mistreat minorities as they choose. In some parts of the world the integration of minorities into mainstream society is restricted by design due to the subjugation forced upon them.

"We call for an end to the systematic discrimination of minorities in any shape or form and urge the governments of such countries to push through reforms aimed at providing equal rights to the poor and the disadvantaged sections of their societies.

"No-one can choose where they are born or who they are born to. To be born into a minority community should not mean that you have to live a life where you suffer at the hands of your own countrymen.

"We say enough is enough and call upon the international community and like-minded organizations and individuals across the world to support us in our commitment to help the minority communities across the world."

CAR morphing into another Somalia?

(Cover photo courtesy of
Story photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)
Central African Republic (MNN) ― The Central African Republic (CAR) has been on a tightrope ever since Seleka rebels overthrew the government in March.

But now this no man’s land may be developing into a humanitarian crisis, according to NGO groups.

“The CAR has been lost in everything that is happening in Egypt and Syria so it’s not on a lot of governments’ or people’s radars or the media.... We don’t want this to turn into another Somalia,” says Jerry Dykstra with Open Doors USA.

Workers with Open Doors in CAR say locals are talking about this "Somalization" of their nation. There are some differences between the situations, but also some similarities.

Dykstra explains, “Somalia has been without a government for years and years. In CAR’s case, the shaky government was overthrown in March and there was a group called Seleka. They forced the leaders out, took over, and since that time there has been tremendous unrest among the people; a lot of violence.”

After the March coup, a new government was established on June 16. Most of the leaders are Seleka with few opposing politicians. 180,000 people have been displaced in the chaos.

International groups suspended aid to the CAR after the coup. They look at what happened in Somalia with several NGO workers killed by rebel domination over the years. Aid organizations in CAR similarly fear for their safety. But when aid was pulled out of Somalia, citizens were hit the hardest with little access to vital resources.

As order in the CAR disintegrates, reports of rapes, robbery, and torture come out. Most recently, a Seleka colonel in Nola sent soldiers to kidnap a 13-year-old girl. The colonel raped her, and soldiers assaulted her parents when they tried to intervene. A co-worker with Open Doors writes, “In the Seleka movement, soldiers are only answerable to their commander and not the president.”

Dykstra says Christians’ safety is also in jeopardy. 50% of the population in CAR is Christian and 15% are Muslim. Christian communities in CAR claim their Muslim neighbors are joining Seleka’s violent campaigns, according to Open Doors.

“It’s not like Christianity is a minority religion, but ever since the coup in March, the Muslims have increased their persecution of Christians at the expense of Christians fearing for their lives,” says Dykstra.

Somalia is 5th on Open Doors World Watch List for worst persecution of Christians. Several other African nations aren’t too far behind. Dykstra states the developing situation in the CAR raises concern. “I would think CAR would move up the list next year, and so we pray that won’t happen, that things will settle down and that Christians and Muslims will get together and respect each other’s faith.”

NGO’s have brought together leaders in Christian, Catholic, and Muslim communities to dialogue and prevent further unrest. Four imams, four pastors, and four priests are part of the initiative and will train on how to prevent conflicts. Then they will spread out to various cities and hold meetings to prevent conflict.

The Catholic clergy also sent a letter “to convey the message of peace and hopefully to implore the new leader, Michel Djotodia, to break his silence on the violence of the Seleka group and for him to say hold off and to promise not to bring Sharia law into that country,” says Dykstra.

Open Doors workers ask through Dykstra, “We need your prayers. We hope this does not turn into a wild state, a gangster state, a jungle. Pray for the future.”

Pastor of Tehran's Central Assembly of God Church Conditionally Released from Prison

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- One of the leaders of the shuttered Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran has been released from prison after spending 43 days in custody.

Pastor Robert Asserian
According to a story by Mohabat Iranian Christian News Agency, Pastor Robert Asserian was arrested by security authorities in the middle of a worship service on May 21.

Mohabat News said it's not clear exactly how Asserian was released. However, it appears he was temporarily freed on bail on July 2.

Mohabat News said Iranian security authorities have asked Asserian and his family not to give any media interviews about his case, release or trial.

Mohabat News said in one sense, silence is a condition of his release. This same standard has previously been applied to other Christian prisoners.

Commenting on the requested silence, Mohabat News said it means that Iranian authorities want to portray actions such as releasing prisoners as a "human rights improvement," and don't want anything said to contradict this.

Mohabat News said responding to the news of Asserian's May arrest, George Wood, General Superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in the U.S., released a statement expressing hi s concern over the pastor's arrest and ongoing pressure on Farsi-speaking churches. He also called on Iranian authorities to stop Christian persecution in the country.

Mohabat News said Wood also mentioned the closure of the Central Assemblies of God Church as a starting point to shut down all Farsi-speaking churches across the country, and put an end to the public proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Iran.

Mohabat News said for a long time Christians have been arrested and imprisoned in Iran just for sharing their faith or having house churches. 

Mohabat News said the newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, promised in his second statement that he will preserve the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and respond to their legitimate demands. 

Mohabat News asked, "Now the question is, does (Rouhani) count Muslims who have converted to Christianity as religious minorities and include them in his promises? What is his view on recently closed Farsi-speaking churches and what will he do to re-open them?"

Bible Society of Egypt Director Says Real Picture Inside Egypt Very Different from What May be Imagined

"The other side of the coin"

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Images of the unrest and demonstrations in Egypt, where President Mohamed Morsi is reportedly under house arrest, are deeply concerning to people worldwide.

Media reports say the military's actions that deposed Morsi have been denounced by his supporters as a "coup," and lauded as a "correction" by his opponents.

However, according to an email from Ramez Atallah, general director of the Bible Society of Egypt, "The real picture from the inside is radically different from what you imagine."

Atallah said he and his wife Rebecca participated in the demonstrations demanding Morsi's resignation.
Atallah said unlike previous demonstrations in which he participated at the same location in front of the Presidential Palace (when there was barbed wire, riot police and tear gas), these demonstrations have for the most part been unusually peaceful.
Atallah said, "The crowds around us were in a festive mood, parents, children, old people, all chanting for the fall of the Government and enthusiastically waving flags and banners. As Rebecca and I walked through the crowds we did not feel unsafe, in spite of the incredibly crowded conditions and the complete lack of any police or army presence."

Atallah said he and his wife are proud to be Egyptians and among "so many wonderful compatriots from Christians to conservative, Muslim, veiled women."

He added, "The concern, enthusiasm, passion and love for our country which we all shared was exhilarating and made us all the more loyal to our great nation."

Atallah said the 17 million plus demonstrators all over the country (the largest turnout in Egypt's history and maybe a world record) have been "remarkably peaceful and safe." He referred a video of showing the extent of the demonstrations taken on June 30 from a helicopter overlooking Cairo. (

Atallah admitted, however, that there has been violence and that militant Muslims are threatening retaliation.

He said, "Dozens have been killed and hundreds wounded and that's what you see on your TV screens. While this is very sad and regrettable, the casualties are minimal compared to the millions out on the streets every night."

Homemade solution

Atallah said this movement was born when Egyptians realized that they could not depend on foreign powers to resolve their crisis.

As a result, he said, "A small group of young people took matters in their own hands and started this grass roots movement designed to force the President to resign. The fact that this is truly a movement by and for the people gives more reason for Egyptians to participate proudly in the protests."

Regaining the spirit of the Jan. 2011 revolution

Atallah said during the Jan. 2011 "revolution," the crowd's enthusiasm "was exhilaration of the crowds was mainly because they felt united together as Egyptians regardless of their social, economic, political or religious situation or views. "

He added, "When the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties won the majority in the new parliament and had one of their own elected as President, they quickly turned it into an autocratic one-party rule and hijacked the revolution with its 'Egypt for all' emphasis. Their attempt to impose political Islam on Egypt is one of the major causes of the present very widespread revolt."

Aallah asked supporters rather than worrying about them, to rejoice for "the remarkable events happening in our country."

He added, " Pray for the wounded and families of those killed (and ) pray that the unprecedented unity expressed between all Egyptians who reject the forceful imposition of political Islam will result in a new Egypt where people with d ifferent persuasions can live alongside one another in harmony. This is the Egypt I remember from my youth and the Egypt most Egyptians yearn for."

Canada provides refuge for young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

TORONTO, CANADA (ANS) -- Rimsha Masih, the young Christian girl who fled Pakistan with her family after a Muslim cleric falsely accused her of burning pages from the Koran, is now in Canada.
Arrest picture of Rimsha Masih
After spending months in hiding, she and her family are now in Canada, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said over the weekend.

According to Rachel Aldrich, writing in World (, "Masih was arrested in August [of last year] in Islamabad after the cleric made the accusation. He was later accused of fabricating the evidence and she was acquitted, but those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are often subject to vigilante justice.

"Mobs have been known to attack and kill people accused of blasphemy, and two prominent politicians who have discussed changes to the blasphemy laws have been killed."

Aldrich went on to say that the girl left Pakistan with her parents, three sisters, and a brother, on March 14, 2013, attorney Tahir Naveed Chaudhry said.

A Muslim cleric who lobbied for her release, Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, said Masih had been facing threats and was moving constantly.

"I am sad that this innocent girl had to leave Pakistan," he said. "She had been acquitted by the court, and despite that it was not possible for her to live freely."

Protestors outside the court in Pakistan where she had been falsely accused of blasphemy
Kenney, Aldrich stated, said that he'd been following the case when a Pakistani contact asked him in January whether the family could come to Canada.

"I said absolutely, if they could get her out," Kenney told The Canadian Press on Sunday. "So a number of people did some very dangerous, delicate work to extricate her and her family from Pakistan, and we provided the necessary visas."

Privacy concerns prevented Canada's immigration service from saying whether she was in the country at first, but the girl's lawyer confirmed it on Saturday, stated Aldrich.

Rimsha Masih sits in a helicopter as she was whisked away from the courthouse in
Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Kenney, she said, stated that he has instructed immigration officials to process their applications for permanent residency under humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Kenney usually doesn't comment on individual immigration cases, but he said family members gave their consent to have their story made public. Kenney said he met with the family in Toronto in April, a few weeks after they arrived.

"The case received widespread attention in part because of the girl's young age and questions about her mental abilities. An official medical report at the time put her age at 14, although some of her supporters said she was as young as 11," Aldrich concluded her story.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Violence Erupts At Orthodox Mission in Freetown Sierra Leone, which is run by a former Australian rock star

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE (ANS) -- A revolt broke out recently against the clergy and mission staff at Waterloo Mission in Sierra Leone, which is run by Brother Themi Adams, a former Australia rock star who once toured with the Rolling Stones.

Themi Adams, the courageous
Christian leader today
"Threats and attacks arose within the mission's compound amongst its own people that the mission cares for," said his colleague, John Tsambazis, in a message to the ASSIST News Service.

Themi Adams, who left the rock world and now heads the Orthodox Mission, in the trouble-torn West African country of Sierra Leone, is accustomed to adversity, and understands very well what could fueling the passion for hostility.

"This community that we are assisting is caught between two ideologies," said Brother Themi. "I jokingly refer to our Waterloo Compound as 'The Republic of Somalia.' They oscillate between peace and violence according to the situation at hand and who is their leader. In some cases they appear to believe that the point of a gun and violence would be the most effective means of survival."

Adams says that, since his move to Sierra Leone, his life has been "imminent danger" on at least 50 occasions, but added, "My escape each time was due solely to the grace of God."

Themi, the rock star
Speaking of the latest attacks, he said, "Due to a recent storm, one of the roofs on a building had blown away. 

Our people started to complain bitterly about it, demanding immediate action. Not being fully satisfied with our reaction, they began to hurl insults at a guest who was staying with us. Becoming increasingly aggressive they then went on a violent rampage."

A decade after the war's end, Sierra Leone still remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Between 1991 and 2002, the Sierra Leone civil war devastated the country leaving more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country's infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced in neighboring countries as refugees

Most of the country's nearly 6 million people live on less than $1.25 (USD) a day, and it remains among the deadliest places in the world. Earlier this year, the capital of Freetown was hard-hit by a cholera outbreak.

A child soldier during the civil war
"People do what they know to survive," said Themi. "If they know 'bad things' they will do them. This is what we are here for; to help and get them back on track and, at times, this can be to our own detriment.

"After this latest rampage, my supporters wanted me to abandon the mission and return back to Australia. My staff, also, were shattered and they were ready to pack their bags too."

According to Ajai Sahni, Executive Director of the Institute of Conflict Management, "Some Christian converts welcome the chance to free themselves from a low-caste status and join Christian missionary life and have higher expectations, so their claims might well be legitimate."

Mr. Sahni also believes there are other underlying factors that might be contributing to the intolerance between some Christian missionary people.

"Aggressive and unprincipled missionary work that exploits the distress and ignorance of marginalized groups can constitute a catalyst to localized violence, particularly when they are brought into confrontation with other creeds," he said. "Sensitivity and understanding is the key here."

Themi Adams then said: "There is a tendency to romanticize missionary endeavors. The Orthodox Church and its priests, who many here believe are living comfortable lives, but the truth, however, is that the Orthodox Church in Africa is at the frontier, regularly facing life-threatening situations for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Feeding program at one of the Orthodox Mission Schools, at Waterloo, Freetown, Sierra Leone
"Christianity may have become one of the world's predominant religions, but there are still many places where Christians are persecuted, dispossessed, tortured and even killed for their faith. Often this occurs as part of governmental or religious policy.

"The Western media frequently under-reports these incidents, fearing that they might offend cultural sensibilities."

He added: "While I was being advised to simply remove the ring leaders from the compound, I stressed that our Lord Jesus Christ's insistence on forgiveness and the necessity to try to understand that this behavior is a function of what they had experienced and learned during the long and brutal years of the civil war.

"These people have suffered economic loss, homicidal death, physical injury, gang wars, slavery, intimidation, bullying, sexually transmitted diseases, and other adverse impacts, such as rigid inhuman rules, torture and corruption.

"Even though their complaints might legitimate, and by their dissatisfaction with food, water, entertainment, and other facilities, we will find a solution.

"Missionaries must have a burden, but they also must be brave! The life of a missionary is not easy one. Often there are great dangers that must be faced. Missionaries must rely on faith amid dangers."

A local area commando who understands the local customs and culture has now been assigned to keep the compound safe and is working on peacefully resolving the issues.

"When I think about the situation, I feel sad," says Mohammed Lappia, who lives at the mission. "I am praying to God that everyone is peaceful, and that things are resolved peacefully. We are the legacy of the war and we don't need more difficulties."

He went on to explain: "A landmine blew off my foot and a fragment of it killed my father. I was lying in the bush for two weeks without treatment, and it was the mission has provided me great relief."

Another resident at the mission named Bah, who contracted polio as a child, also suffered during the war, fleeing from the rebels through a combination of cycling, hobbling and being carried to the mission.

Kamara, another resident said, "I just sit down and feel so angry about our future. I think about my parents (who were killed by the rebels). I am dependent on our caregivers who are so kind when the situation isn't good for them. My parents were just poor farmers, and they couldn't leave (and paid for it with their lives.) We are disabled because of our circumstances and we are asking for 'Good Governance,' and we do not really want to act badly or violently."

Lappia, another occupant at the mission says he dreams of studying law and politics, and thinks about the past and how it is tied to the injustices and frustrations of the country and wants to an end to it. He says that appreciates all that the mission is doing for him and others.

I would like to thank John Tsambazis for contributing to this story.

Blasphemy Convict Asia Bibi's Appeal at Least Two Years Away

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Asia Bibi, the Christian woman on death row whose blasphemy conviction was decried as unjust by slain former Governor Salmaan Taseer, faces a wait of at least another two years behind bars before her appeal is likely to come up before the Lahore High Court (LHC).
Asia Bibi

According to a story by Rana Tanvee for The Express Tribune, Bibi, 45, has been jailed since June 19, 2009, when her neighbors in a village near Nankana Sahib accused her of making derogatory remarks about Mohammad.

An additional district and sessions judge convicted and sentenced her to death in Nov. 2010, pending confirmation of the decision by the LHC.

The Express Tribune reported that the case attracted the attention of then Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who visited Bibi in jail and denounced her conviction as well as the blasphemy law.

A couple of months later, Taseer - and any hope Bibi had of a quick release - was killed in a hail of bullets fired by his own bodyguard.

The Express Tribune reported that some two-and-a-half years later, Bibi is waiting for a date to be fixed for the hearing of her appeal. The court has a large backlog of cases, and is currently hearing appeals filed at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. Appeals filed at the end of 2010 are due to come up in 2015.

A court staff er told The Express Tribune that for the last 10 months the LHC has prioritized the disposal of murder cases and capital sentence cases, fixing them before eight division benches. He said that there was a large backlog of such cases because of a shortage of judges.

The Express Tribune said the head of the court does have the power to hear cases out of turn. Under Article 561-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the chief justice of the LHC can fix any case before a bench out of turn upon an application from an aggrieved party, according to Advocate Aftab Ahmed Bajwa.

The Express Tribune reported that the LHC cause list shows that some cases from 2010, 2011 and 2012 are being heard out of turn by the court. The opposite is also true: some murder and capital sentence cases from 2005 are still pending.

Aslam Pervez Sahotra, the chairman of the Human Liberation Commission Pakistan, a group that lobbies for greater awareness of human rights, said that he had sent a request to the chief justice of Pakistan that Bibi's a ppeal be heard as soon as possible, but had received no response.

The Express Tribune reported he said that Bibi faced threats from fellow inmates and her jailers at Sheikhupura Jail. She was reported to have been badly beaten by a jail staffer in Oct. 2011.

"For her safety, and because of the many lacunae in her conviction, her appeal should be heard immediately. We are hopeful she would be acquitted by the High Court," The Express Tribune reported he said.

According to the FIR (First Information Report) of the case, registered at Saddar Nankana Sahib police station on June 19 2009, on the complaint of Qari Muhammad Salam, Asia Bibi had made blasphemous remarks after getting into an argument with Asma Bibi, her sister Mafia Bibi, and Yasmin on June 14.

The Express Tribune reported the complainant said that he had summoned the witnesses and the accused and heard their stories, after which Asia Bibi had apologized.

The Express Tribune said Nankana Sahib Additional District and Sessions Judge Muhammad N aveed Iqbal presided over her trial, hearing eight prosecution witnesses, but none in defense of Asia Bibi. On Nov. 8 2010, he sentenced her to death by hanging.