Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan

A Pakistani court has sentenced to death a Christian mother of five for blasphemy.

Last Updated: Nov 11, 2010, 22:44 PM IST

Lahore: A Pakistani court has sentenced
to death a Christian mother of five for blasphemy, the first
such conviction of a woman and sparking protests from rights
groups on Thursday.

Asia Bibi, 45, was sentenced Monday by a local court
in Nankana district in Pakistan`s central province Punjab,
about 75 kilometres (47 miles) west of the country`s cultural
capital of Lahore.

Pakistan has yet to execute anyone for blasphemy, but
the case spotlights the Muslim country`s controversial laws on
the subject which rights activists say encourages Islamist
extremism in a nation wracked by Taliban attacks.

Asia`s case dates back to June 2009 when she was asked
to fetch water while out working in the fields. But a group of
Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim,
she should not touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and
alleged that Asia made derogatory remarks about the
Prophet Mohammed. The cleric went to local police, who opened
an investigation.

She was arrested in Ittanwalai village and prosecuted
under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries
the death penalty.

Sentencing her to hang, Judge Naveed Iqbal "totally
ruled out" any chance that Asia was falsely implicated and
said there were "no mitigating circumstances", according to a
copy of the verdict seen by a news agency.

Husband Ashiq Masih, 51, said that he would appeal
her death sentence, which needs to be upheld by the Lahore
high court, the highest court in Punjab, before it can be
carried out.
"The case is baseless and we will file an appeal," he
said.

The couple have two sons and three daughters.
Rights activists and minority pressure groups said it
was the first time that a woman had been sentenced to hang in
Pakistan for blasphemy, although a Muslim couple were jailed
for life last year.

Human rights activists want the controversial
legislation repealed, saying it is exploited for personal
enmity and encourages Islamist extremism.

PTI