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LHC upholds death sentence of blasphemy convict Aasia Bibi

17 October, 2014

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LAHORE: A special division bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursday dismissed the appeal of condemned Christian woman Aasia Bibi, 50, and upheld her death sentence on blasphemy charges.

Aasia has been in jail since June 19, 2009. Nankana Sahib Additional District and Sessions judge Justice Muhammad Naveed Iqbal had tried the woman, a farm worker, and after recording eight prosecution witnesses' statements on November 8, 2010 had sentenced her to death. The court also ordered her to pay Rs 100,000 as fine, failing which she would have to undergo an imprisonment of six months. Aasia Bibi was arrested in the village of Ittanwalai under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The petitioner's counsel had argued in the court that the trial court had awarded the death sentence despite lack of evidence. However, a deputy prosecutor opposed the counsel's request and contended that the trial court had awarded the sentence on the basis of evidence. The bench dismissed the appeal and upheld the trial court verdict. Complainant Muhammad Salam had alleged that on June 14, 2009, Aasia Bibi had committed blasphemy at the Falsa Gardens owned by one Idress in Nankana Sahib.

He alleged that he had not heard her uttering the blasphemous remarks but other women, namely Asma Bibi, her sister Mafia Bibi, and Yasmin, heard her saying them and told him about the incident. He had also claimed that locals Muhammad Afzal and Mukhtar Ahmed summoned the accused and the witnesses, and the accused confessed to her crime and begged pardon.

Salam said Aasia Bibi had hurt their religious sentiments and she should be tried under blasphemy articles and be brought to book. The counsels for Aasia Bibi said that she had categorically rejected the story of the complainant. They said that Asma and Mafia are real sisters, and that they falsely implicated Aasia in this case because they felt disgraced and dishonoured on the basis of altercation and hard words extended to them by her when they denied drinking water brought by her for them.

Aasia Bibi is the first woman who has been awarded death sentence on blasphemy charges. She has 30 days to challenge her conviction in the Supreme Court. The case had attracted the attention of then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer Shaheed, who visited her in jail and denounced her conviction. A couple of months later, he was killed by his own bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri.

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