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Fides news agency reports on the ongoing case of Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan
"Confidence in the outcome of the retrial, confidence in Pakistani justice, confidence in being able to demonstrate the complete innocence of Asia Bibi: these are the premises and impressions with which Asia Bibi's lawyers are preparing for the first hearing of the appeal process, at the High Court of Lahore, which has not yet set a date but that "could be very soon," the lawyers told Fides. Legal assistance to Asia Bibi is ensured by the commitment of the Masihi Foundation, who chose well-known professionals for the defence of the woman sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy.
In an interview with Fides, the lawyers said they were "confident in being able to demonstrate that the testimonies, upon which the prosecution's case against Asia is focused, will not stand up and are totally fabricated." They believe, therefore, "that they can prove the innocence of the woman and obtain her full acquittal." The lawyers claim "to have confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the High Court of Lahore." The appeal process, they consider, "will be completely different from the first in the magistrates' court. The magistrates' courts are in fact subjected to political influences, pressure from Islamic fundamentalists, ie. things that do not happen in the upper echelons of justice"
According to the lawyers, the process will take approximately one year, but to ensure Asia's safety, "it would be better not to remove her from the jail in Sheikhupura, where she is currently protected in an isolation cell."
Original article here
Another report from Fidesoutlines the challenges faced by the Minister for Religious Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti:
"Within the Government, the Minister for Religious Minorities has been approved, but his work will be rather difficult: "What can Minister Shahbaz Bhatti do to change the controversial blasphemy law, if his Government has openly said that it does not intend to lift a finger?" Haroon Barket Masih, president of the Masihi Foundation told Fides. "Therefore, there is a stalemate. We appeal to the international community, to the United Nations, the United States and Europe to look carefully at the conditions for minorities in Pakistan and to put pressure on the Pakistani Government until it encourages full respect for human rights. We hope that Heads of State, like President Obama and the European leaders, will follow the example of Pope Benedict XVI who has spoken out in favour of Asia Bibi and the abolition of the iniquitous blasphemy law."
"On the other hand, sources in Pakistan report to Fides that Mr Bhatti, in the role since 2008, has contributed in this short time and despite the difficulties, to maintaining the public's attention on the status of religious minorities and he has promoted several favourable initiatives. He has succeeded in reserving 5% of government departmental posts for minorities and four seats in the Senate; he has received official recognition for religious feast days; he has built non-Muslim prayer rooms in prisons; he has helped Christians in the slums in their legal battles over property rights; given legal and material assistance to victims of violence and blasphemy laws; created "interreligious district committees" throughout the Country, to promote harmony and awareness of the issue of religious freedom; created, finally, a hotline to assist religious minorities in times of crisis. Recently, he has been directly involved in the case of Asia Bibi, saying in a report submitted to the President of Pakistan, Ali Zardari, that the woman has been falsely accused, the allegations based on personal animosity. He has also spoken out against the blasphemy law, calling for its review, and drawing death threats from radical Islamic groups. "
Original article here