Tag: death sentence

Asia Bibi begins her appeal trial today: Prayers requested

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Asia Bibi

Dear all,

Today (13th October) at 9am Pakistan time, Asia Bibi begins her appeal trial at the Supreme Court of Pakistan located in Islamabad.

We are asking all our members to pray for her to be set free and to attain safety in a country in the west. A simple prayer but one that encompasses her basic needs for now.

British Pakistani Christian Association does not believe a decision will be made in court today. Even then our officer Shamim Masih will be in attendance and will immediately send us the result which we will share with you in real time, if necessary.

You can still sign our petition for Asia Bibi which will be in the hands of the Pakistani Government today. Our petition calls for Asia Bibi to be protected, for her to receive a fair trial and for President Mamnoon Hussain to do the right thing and pardon her if the law courts fail to uphold justice. If you have not signed it (click here) Please share our petition with others and see if we can reach 15,000 signatories or above.

Asia Bibi’s plight triggered the publication of our first ever book on persecution in Pakistan, a copy of which can be purchased (here). Since then we have written several further reports. Our latest report which will also be dedicated to Asia Bibi is to be launched in UK Parliament on the 1st of November 2016 at 1pm. If you would like a free invitation to attend please email us by clicking (here).

Wilson Chowdhry has met with several Politicians at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra. During a five hour series of meetings with politicians including Senator Eric Abetz, Senator David Fawcett, MP Kevin Andrews, MP Andrew Hastie and Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton, he discussed the potential for a quota for 100 Pak-Christians per year being given asylum in Australia. Wilson is now in communication with Tom Fleming (Senior advisor) and Craig Maclachlan (Chief of staff) at the Australian Ministry for Immigration who will be sharing existing streams for migration that could assist those wishing to flee Pakistan and those stranded in countries such as Thailand where they are re-persecuted. Moreover, we are working towards being included on the existing programme for Community Sponsorship, that will allow BPCA to act as a conduit for refugees with a quota restricted to 100 applicants. Read full story below this introduction.

We are collecting donations for Asia Bibi and her family to help support them after they seek asylum in a new country. The funds will help them with heavy costs involved with re-establishing their lives outside of Pakistan. We do not believe any western nation would refuse them entry should Asia Bibi be exonerated. The funds will enable us to continue to help the family after Asia Bibi is set free – a decision that is long overdue. If you would like to donate to our work please (click here)

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

Mr Wilson Chowdhry
Chairman BPCA  (British Pakistani Christian Association)

 

Update – Lunchtime 13 OCT 2016 – From Church in Chains

 

PAKISTAN: Supreme Court adjourns Asia Bibi’s appeal
13th October, 2016

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Asia’s husband, Ashiq Masih, outside the court

Asia Bibi’s long-awaited appeal against her conviction for blasphemy was adjourned today in Pakistan’s Supreme Court in Islamabad after one of the three judges recused himself from the case.

Asia was not in court for the appeal hearing but her husband Ashiq Masih was (picture shows him outside the court). The adjournment came after Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman told the court he had to recuse himself, claiming a conflict of interest. “I was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salman Taseer [the Governor of Punjab who was assassinated after supporting Asia Bibi], and this case is related to that,” he told the court. The judges wrote to the chief justice of Pakistan asking him to appoint another judge to the bench.

The Supreme Court did not immediately set a new date for the appeal though one of Asia’s lawyers is hopeful that it may be heard in early November.

There was heightened security in Islamabad with over 100 riot police deployed around the court and over 3,000 members of the security forces on standby elsewhere in the city. On the eve of the hearing, a Muslim extremist group, the “Shuhada Foundation”, said its supporters would take to the streets and would not allow the government to function if Asia were released.

“We are seriously concerned at the efforts for the release of blasphemous Asia Masih and will consider those blasphemous who defend her, whoever they are and in whichever position they are working,” said Hafiz Ehtesham Ahmad, spokesperson for the foundation. He also warned of “serious consequences” if Asia were allowed to go abroad.

Zohra Yusuf, chair of the independent Human Rights Commission in Pakistan, said that the appeal delay was “regrettable”, noting that Asia Bibi was already being held in solitary confinement due to security concerns. The judges may be “apprehensive”, she said, adding that after the Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold Mumtaz Qadri’s death sentence for assassinating Salman Taseer, justices had to sneak out the back door to the court. “It’s a sensitive case. I think they [the judges] have realised that if Asia Bibi [is] acquitted, they may be putting their own lives on the line,” Yusuf said.

(AFP, Express Tribune, Release International)

Reacting to the news, David Turner (Director, Church in Chains), stated: “We are very disappointed at the news of today’s adjournment. The judge who recused himself would have been aware of the conflict of interest as soon as he was appointed to the case and action could have been taken at that stage to allow today’s hearing to proceed.

“For Asia Bibi, justice has been delayed yet again and this innocent Christian woman who has languished in prison for 7 ½ years must continue to wait. We encourage our supporters to keep praying for Asia – that she will know that she is not forgotten, that she will know that God is with her and that justice will soon prevail”.



Asia Bibi Needs Your Urgent Prayers for Her Upcoming Hearing Appeal Against Her Death Sentence

Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman and mother of five, has suffered eight years behind the prison bars in the city Multan in Pakistan.

Her final chance for life will be at her upcoming sentencing. Her death sentence will be confirmed on October 12 or 13, 2016. This is the last chance she has to escape the unjust death sentence she was given under Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws”. She is desperate to be reunited with her five children and family again. Her crime? She drank water from the same metal cup meant for Muslims’ use.

Asia Bibi was the only Christian who worked in the berry fields among her female Muslim co-workers in Sheikhupura district of Punjab Province. She was asked to fetch water from a nearby well, which she did, and on the way back drank from the metal cup meant only for Muslims.

Upon this act, the Muslim women insulted her and her faith, stating that Christians are dirty filthy infidels and are not allowed to drink from the same cup. Asia, upon defending her faith said, “I believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?” No response, and full of rage, they accused her of blasphemy and the district court of Sheikhupura charged her with a death sentence. Unbelievably, the simple act of drinking from the same cup Muslims use can put a Christian life on the death row!

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The first two weeks of October, in fact the whole month, is very significant for Bibi, her family, and for all the Christians of Pakistan as they wait in prayer for the verdict from the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the case.

Islamist groups are planning to attack her if she is released from the jail. Jamait Ulema, one of the worst extremist groups, has pledged to take the law in its own hand, and to kill her if the Supreme Court releases her. They have offered an equivalent of $10,000 reward for anyone who would execute her, and there are 10 million willing Muslims who would do it.

There is no safe haven for Asia, either in the prison or outside the prison bars. Her health is deteriorating in the bad conditions of the prison, and she is constantly threatened by other inmates with death and poison in her cell.

There is no escape.

Her family has been threatened by numerous radical Muslim groups, and was forced into hiding. Her children cannot leave the shelter for fear of abduction.

Life is not safe for Christians living in Pakistan. Any who dare to question mistreatment by blasphemy law are put to death. Even the Governor of Punjab, Salaman Taseer, was killed by his own security guard, Mumtaz Qadri.

Qadri was highly praised and applauded by extremist Muslims. The Federal Minister of Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhati, was murdered by gunmen in an ambush in his car. Both of these men in high position supported Asia Bibi and paid with their lives.

Christians who voice their persecution know they will likely meet with the same fate. For this reason, many such cases go unreported; victims never see justice, and with the situation never changing to accept the Christian community or allow their faith.

Please urge your members of the US Congress to intervene with the government of Pakistan to push on the release of Aisa Bibi.

The Pakistan government needs moral and legal support from America to stand and fight against the pressure of Islamist groups. Financial Aid could be restricted by US on the grounds of Aisa Bibi’s release or for that matter, for the protection of Christians in Pakistan.

Please also request US to be ready to help arrange the escape of Bibi out of the country, as quickly as possible upon her released from jail. American government does have influence—should it choose to exert it.

Stand alongside Christians in Pakistan in this crucial two weeks of October, and pray for their safety and spiritual strength as they hold protests for Bibi’s case.

Especially pray for Bibi’s lawyer, Khalil Tahir Sindhu that God fills him with courage and strength as he fights for her in the courtroom. This woman is innocent and suffering in jail for eight years for standing up for her faith.

Fervently pray for Bibi’s continuous strong believe in Jesus, her children, husband and her relatives’ protection and faith. Sign petitions and raise awareness about her case among your friends, family and church members so more and more people can join in to pray. Her safe release would signify that justice is done for at least one Pakistani Christian.

Source: Christian Freedom Iternational



Praise report: S. Sudan pastors accused of spying freed

We’re delighted that the campaign to save the South Sudan pastors from a death sentence has had a welcome outcome with today’s news that they have been set free.

This is indeed a great cause for praise and thanksgiving among the worldwide Christian community. The banner below had become a familiar sight on a number of Christian websites and we know that prayers have been answered and efforts such as a petition calling for their release have been rewarded. These pastors were in a very serious situation, facing a potential death sentence. The full story below comes courtesy of World Watch Monitor.

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Two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Sudan for, amongst other things, “spying” have been freed by the Judge of Khartoum North Central Court, Ahmed Ghaboush. Had they been found guilty of this, they could have faced the death penalty.
Yat Michael had taken his child to Khartoum for medical treatment when he was arrested on 14 December, 2014, after being asked to preach at a local church during his stay. Peter Yen was arrested in January 2015 when he went to enquire about Michael’s whereabouts. The two men were then reported as missing until Sudanese authorities revealed that they were being held in prison for “crimes against the state”.

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Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen in court during their trial in Khartoum, 2015 American Center for Law & Justice

Guilty on some accounts, but freed due to time served

The DPA German news agency reported that the judge found Yat Michael guilty of a “breach of the peace” (Article 69) and Peter Yen (also known as David Reith) guilty of “managing a criminal or terrorist organisation” (Article 65). But he ordered both be released, as they had already served the sentences for these offences through their eight-month stay in prison.

Experts said there were fears that they would have been convicted of the more serious charges; it was felt the judge was under pressure to balance local expectations on him to uphold the principles of the Sharia-governed state, with adherence to international human rights standards.

The families told Radio Tamazuj, an online independent news service broadcast in Sudan and South Sudan, that they were “delighted”.

The last time the men were in court was 23 July, when their legal team submitted their written closing arguments.

Observers from a number of foreign embassies were present that day. An official from the Sudanese Ministry of Justice told one of the pastors’ lawyers that the extent of outside interest had led the government to take a very close interest in the case.

Thabith Al Zubir, one of the lawyers defending the pastors, asked the judge on 23 July to drop the case because the defence had refuted all the accusations levelled against the two men, and because there was no clear evidence against them.

Arrested ‘illegally’

The defence lawyers had also argued that their clients were arrested illegally by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

They said Pastor Yat Michael did not violate Sudan’s law when he preached in Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church on 14 December, because he was just carrying out his duty as a pastor. “To urge believers to be zealous for their church is not an insult against God,” one lawyer said, referring to NISS arresting Yat Michael after his sermon in the church in the Bahri area, just north of the Sudanese capital.

“Justice requires that you don’t judge simply because you [suspect], without any concrete evidence,” the lawyer said.

In addition, the lawyers raised concern over the fact that Yat Michael and Peter Yen were being tried illegally for insulting religion.

They also said that the pastors were illegally detained for a long period of time without trial: “This is illegal and against the bill of rights in Sudan’s constitution.”

Lawyer Al Zubir had called on the court to respect Sudan’s constitution above the powers of the National Intelligence and Security Service to arrest and detain any person for a long period of time without trial.

The lawyers concluded that the court should accept their defence, and drop the charges for lack of evidence: “These charges are built on sand,” they concluded.

“The charges included: complicity in committing crimes with other bodies (Article 21), spying for outsiders (Article 53), and collecting and leaking information to the detriment of Sudanese national security (Article 55).

The charge of undermining the constitutional system (Article 50) has been “dropped”, reported Radio Tamazuj after the 23 July hearing.

Other charges included promoting hatred amongst sects (Article 64); breach of public peace (Article 69); and offences relating to insulting religious beliefs (Article 125). Article 53 carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Defence witnesses testify evidence against the men could have been ‘planted’

At a previous hearing on 14 July, the pastors had stated that some of the “incriminating” documents allegedly found on their computers were not theirs. These included internal church reports, maps showing the population and topography of Khartoum, Christian literature, and a study guide on Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

The pastors acknowledged having the internal church report, though both said they had never seen the study guide on NISS until it was presented in court. They said they had no knowledge of how it got on the computer.

The defence team called two witnesses.

One, ex-army general and 2010 presidential candidate Abdul Aziz Khalid, testified that the maps presented by the prosecution were available to civilians and not classified; therefore the espionage charge against the pastors was without basis.

The other witness was an IT expert, who testified how easy it would have been for others to plant documents on the men’s computers without their knowledge.

The pastors had again been denied access to their legal team ahead of the 14 July hearing, despite an earlier direction that they be allowed 15 minutes with their lawyers.

(At the previous hearing on 2 July, the judge had permitted the defence team only 15 minutes with the pastors in order to prepare their case).

The pastors have also had little access to their families, who were only permitted to visit them in the high-security Kober Prison after they had been held for six months.

Defence lawyer himself arrested day before he was due in court, with church pastor

On 1 July, Mohaned Mustafa – one of the lawyers representing Michael and Yen, together with the Evangelical Bahri Church pastor Hafez – was briefly detained when challenging a government employee who was overseeing the destruction of parts of the Bahri evangelical church complex.

The employee was attempting to destroy a part of the complex that was not within the government order for destruction. It is still not known when the case against the two lawyers will be brought to court.

This is not the first time the Sudanese government has attempted to clamp down on the Evangelical Church of Khartoum.

On December 2, 2014, the church was raided by handfuls of police officers, who arrived in six patrol cars. They beat a number of peaceful sit-in demonstrators with pipes and water sticks and arrested 38 eight members of the church.

After the raid, 20 of the people arrested were sentenced to a fine of 250 Sudanese pounds (roughly $40) after being convicted without legal representation under Articles 65 (criminal and terrorist organisations) and 69 (disturbance of public peace) of the 1991 Sudanese Penal Code.

The charges were dropped against the remaining 18 individuals.

The sit-in demonstrations were prompted by a corruption scandal, including the sale of church land to investors.

In 2010, the Evangelical Church of Khartoum in Bahri elected a Community Council to control the administration, assets, and investments of the church. The Community Council was plagued by accusations of corruption. The church attempted to resolve the conflict with the church’s General Assembly electing a new Community Council. But the previous Council refused to recognise the new Council and hand over institutional documents.

The government of Sudan intervened on 28 April, 2014 and re-appointed several members of the old Community Council.

Despite not having an official mandate to sell church properties or engage in investment on behalf of the church, these members sold a substantial amount of property.

Yat Michael was arrested after preaching at this church two weeks after the police raid and partial demolition of the church.

During his sermon, he condemned the controversial sale of the church land and property, and the treatment of Christians in Sudan.

The arrest, incarceration and extended trial of Michael and Yen illustrates the pressure Christians face in the Muslim-dominated region.

Source: World Watch Monitor



S Sudan pastors speak to CBN from prison

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Reverend Yat Michael and Reverend Peter Yein are pastors with the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church. Both men were arrested by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) when they visited Khartoum last December and January and have been in prison since then. They’ve been charged with “inciting organized groups” and “offending Islamic beliefs,” as well as undermining the constitution and espionage, which carry the death sentence or life in prison.

They are currently being held at Kober Prison in North Khartoum. In an exclusive CBN News interview, Senior International Correspondent George Thomas talked to the two pastors via telephone from their Khartoum prison cell.

“There is zero evidence that either pastor undermined the constitutional system of Sudan, conducted espionage, promoted hatred, disturbed the peace, or blasphemed.”

– Tiffany Barrans, American Center for Law and Justice

Sudan has long been governed under strict Sharia law and archaic judicial punishments are often doled out among the accused. Stoning, flogging and even crucifixion are all considered acceptable. The country’s public order law allows police officers to publically whip women they consider to be guilty of public indecency.

Please continue to pray for these pastors.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Heb 13:3 NIV

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