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Pope urges freedom for Pakistani Christian

ICC Note:

Pakistan Minister says Pope can ‘say whatever he wants’ as pleas continue for release of woman sentenced to death for’blasphemy.’
11/17/2010 Pakistan (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday urged the release of a Christian woman in Pakistan facing the death sentence on a charge of blasphemy.

Benedict told his weekly public audience that Christians in Pakistan “are often victims of violence and discrimination.”

He called for the release of Asia Bibi, a mother of five children who was sentenced to death in early November accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs, said a group of Muslim women reported Bibi to police after a dispute over whether she, as a Christian, was allowed to use the same

water bowl as them. They accused her of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad. She has been in prison for the past 1 1/2 years.

The verdict has drawn attention to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which critics say are used to persecute Christian and other minorities, fan extremism and are often exploited for personal enmity.

Asked about the pope’s remarks, Bhatti said “he was free to say whatever he wants. They shows his solidarity and concern for the suffering of humanity.”

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