Pakistan Detains Christian Woman For "Insulting" Islam

Friday, January 26, 2007 | Tag Cloud

By BosNewsLife News Center

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- A Christian married mother with six children remained detained in a Pakistani jail Thursday, January 25, and could face the death penalty for allegedly insulting Islam, her supporters told BosNewsLife.

Police took Martha Bibi into custody late Monday, January 22, in the town of Kot Nanak Singh in District Kasur, southeast of the city of Lahore, after the local Imam urged Muslims to attack the Christian family saying "Martha uttered derogatory words against the Holy Prophet Muhammad," said the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) advocacy group.

"On hearing the continuous announcement [from the mosque] and voices of people outside who were gathered to attack her home, Martha's family left to hide in one of the neighboring houses," APMA said. However soon, "police came and arrested Martha Bibi."

She was charged under section 295 C of Pakistan's controversial Blasphemy Law and could face the death penalty if convicted, APMA. In many cases Christians have however received long prison sentences. Bibi has denied the charges.

LOCAL MUSLIMS

Police apparently detained her after on false accusations of blasphemy made by local Muslims, suggested APMA, which is providing legal assistance to the woman. APMA investigators said the problems began when Marti Bibi asked for money from Muslim men working in the Mosque with material they rented from her husband's construction shop.

The men refused to pay the rent and instead started to beat her, APMA said, citing local sources in the region, an area where about 12 Christian families live among 500 Muslim families. "On the intervention of local passersby, she was freed and returned home," APMA said, before being arrested later in the day by local police.

APMA Chairman Shahbaz Bhatti told BosNewsLife that he appealed to the chief justice of the Supreme Court to take against "the alarming misuse of the blasphemy law." He has the government to repeal the law which Bhatti said has become "a tool in the hands of extremists to persecute, victimize and terrorize religious minorities and opponents."

FREE AID

APMA lawyers have been providing free legal aid to Martha Bibi and the group is assisting the family. A Pakistani official said Tuesday, January 23, that Islamabad wants to reform its controversial blasphemy law, just days after a mentally-ill Christian and a Christian teenager were released from prison.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed reportedly said the law, would be changed after a general election due late this year or early 2008. (With BosNewsLife reports and BosNewsLife Research).

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