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Pakistani pardoned for alleged blasphemy

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy has been pardoned by Pakistan’s president, according to a Nov. 22 report by International Christian Concern, a human rights organization based in Washington.

Asia Noreen (also named as Asia Bibi by ICC and various media) was sentenced Nov. 8 after a court in Pakistan’s Punjab province found her guilty of blasphemous statements against Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, it is a crime punishable by death to blaspheme the Islamic prophet.

ICC stated that Noreen’s release “came after intense international pressure by politicians and church leaders as well as coverage by several media outlets.”

ICC stated that Noreen “has now been taken to an undisclosed location for her safety. In the past, Christians have been killed by vigilantes after being accused of blasphemy. On July 19, gunmen killed pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother, Sajid Emmanuel, while police were transporting them from the court in Faisalabad to jail.”

ICC reported that Muslim lawyers “and other fundamentalist Muslims” are preparing to demonstrate against Noreen’s release.

Jonathan Racho, ICC regional manager for southern Asia, commended Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, “for taking the right action.”

“It’s high time for Pakistan to repeal the blasphemy laws that have caused so much persecution against Christians and other religious minorities,” Racho said.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston. For reports about the blasphemy charge against Asia Noreen, see Baptist Press postings of the following stories by Compass Direct News: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=34095 and http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=34109.

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