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Last week, an emaciated, desperately ill mother of five endured a milestone, six years since the brutal start of her incarceration that has led to her being left on death row. The innocent victim of abuse, in a land where innocence is no excuse if you are of the wrong creed, Asia Bibi has languished for six years in prison. She has wasted away as her appeal was delayed time and again and then rejected. Her crime was to stand up for her Christian faith after her Muslim co-workers abused her for an act of kindness on her part. A mob attacked her and her family, sexually assaulting her daughters. She was taken into custody and sentenced to death by an intimidated judge, cowed by the baying mob of Islamic fundamentalists calling for her lynching, and has since endured crushing disappointment after disappointment, apparent poisoning attempts, death threats, withholding of medical care and deep isolation that has devastated her health.
‘Six years have passed and the travesty of justice continues’, said Wilson Chowdhry of British Pakistani Christians (BPC), ‘For some time we have been told that there has been a moratorium on the death penalty because of pressure from Western donors, but even before this vanished at the end of last year, it has become clear that her treatment was in effect a slow death sentence by neglect and worse, all for a allegedly committing a crime that should not exist – blasphemy.’
Pakistan has lifted its moratorium on the death penalty after a terrorist bombing of an army school late last year, saying it was so that they could execute terrorists. However, after executing several terrorists, reports indicate that multiple senior government and justice officials were told by powerful terrorist groups that any further executions would result in deadly retribution. No more terrorists have been executed, but the execution of others has continued full pelt.
‘Asia Bibi is by no means the only Christian on death row for blasphemy’ Wilson added. ‘There are a number of others, and there are also other Christians who are in there for crimes they did not commit, and are in effect there because they are Christians. One man who had been imprisoned for over 2 decades from the age of 15, and who was well known to be innocent of the crime he was convicted of, was executed two weeks ago. At his point of arrest as a child for a triple murder he did not commit, he could or would not pay the police a bribe, was tortured into confessing, and even when, after his false conviction, the two witnesses recanted, saying they too had been tortured, he was still taken out and hanged. The Pakistani state deliberately and wantonly denied his lawyers the chance to provide evidence of his innocence and perpetrated a monstrous miscarriage of justice. This is an absolute travesty, especially when a reprieve was granted to a Muslim man similarly tortured as a child into falsely confessing to a murder. The moratorium was ostensibly lifted to execute terrorists, and in typical Pakistan fashion, at least one innocent Christian ends up hanged instead – whatever the reasons for this, whether it is to let Pakistan authorities save face and cover up the fact that they have capitulated to terrorists yet again, or whether they are cynically using the sympathy from the West over the school bombing to deliberately execute those they previously couldn’t do, it is completely unacceptable. I call on the UK government to remonstrate with the Pakistani government in the strongest possible terms over this deadly game of bait and switch, and to free Asia Bibi and let her and her family escape to safety.’
We are working tirelessly to help free Asia Bibi and to help end injustice for Christians in Pakistan, but we can’t do it without your help.
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