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Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy

media Policemen are seen silhouetted at the entrance of the Sargodha jail in …

A Pakistani court has sentenced to death a Christian mother of five for blasphemy, a first such conviction for a woman. Human rights groups protest the conviction and call for blasphemy laws to be repealed.

Asia Bibi was sentenced to death on Monday by a local court in Nankana district in Pakistan's central province Punjab.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

Her conviction has sparked protests from human rights groups and indignation from groups representing Christians in Pakistan.

In June 2009, Asia was asked to fetch water while working in the fields. A group of Muslim workers objected to her touching the water bowl on the grounds that she was not a Muslim.

Later the women complained to a local cleric and alleged that Asia had defiled the name of the Prophet Mohammed. Asia was arrested and a local judge sentenced her to hang and ruled out any chance that she had been falsely implicated.

Human rights and minority groups have slammed the conviction and say they want the controversial blasphemy legislation repealed.

“99% of cases against Christians have been filed in Punjab province under the blasphemy law after the formation of this controversial law which indicates a rise in extremism in Punjab,” says Watson Gill, a coordinator for the Pakistan Christian Congress.

Asia's husband Ashiq Masih says he is going to appeal the death sentence which needs to be upheld by the Lahore high court, the highest tribunal in Punjab, before it can be carried out.

"The case is baseless and we will file an appeal," he said.

Around 3 per cent of Pakistan’s population is believed to be non-Muslim.


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