Pakistani Christian In Final Court Appeal Against Blasphemy Execution

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Pakistan’s Supreme Court will begin hearing the final appeal Monday of a Christian mother on death row for blasphemy, a notorious case which could see her become the first to be executed under the controversial laws.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since 2010 when Pope Benedict XVI joined in international calls for her release.

In 2015 her daughter met with Pope Francis, who as the head of the Catholic Church offered prayers for her mother.

It was not clear if the three-judge Supreme Court bench would issue their ruling Monday. If they uphold Bibi’s conviction, her only recourse will be a direct appeal to the president for clemency.

Hardliners in Pakistan regularly call for her execution, including in Islamabad’s Red Mosque. One of the most vocal groups, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), has vowed to attend the hearing.

But rights activists have warned that carrying the sentence out would be appeasement of populist extremists and a huge blow for minorities, who already face pervasive discrimination in the deeply conservative Muslim country.

The allegations against Bibi date back to 2009 when she was working in a field and was asked to fetch water. Muslim women, she was laboring with allegedly objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

The women went to a local cleric and accused Bibi of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, a charge so sensitive in Pakistan that anyone even accused of insulting Islam risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

The charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of death under legislation that rights groups say is routinely abused to settle personal vendettas.

But calls for reform have regularly been met with violence and rejected.

 

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan launched a wholehearted defense of the laws during his election campaign earlier this year, vowing his party “fully” supports the legislation and “will defend it”.

AFP

Italy Midfielder Mandragora Banned For Blasphemy

In this file photo taken on June 1, 2018 Italy’s midfielder Rolando Mandragora (L) vies for the ball with France’s defender Lucas Hernandez during the friendly football match between France and Italy at the Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice, southeastern France. PHOTO: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Italian international Rolando Mandragora has been banned for one Serie A game after making “blasphemous remarks” during his team Udinese’s 1-0 win over Sampdoria at the weekend.

The 21-year-old midfielder was caught on television shouting an insult to the Virgin Mary, while also referring to God as a dog.

The 21-year-old’s “blasphemous expressions” went unnoticed by officials during the match, leading to a review by the Lega Serie A.

The Italian FA said Mandragora was “clearly seen … to make blasphemous remarks, visibly identifiable from reading his lips without any margin for reasonable doubt.”

They acknowledged the Italian international was “cursing without addressing any of those present”.

In Italy, blasphemy is considered among the worst forms of swearing and the former Juventus midfielder will miss next Sunday’s Serie A game against Fiorentina, the Lega Serie A confirmed.

“Mandragora is a good person, the most he deserved was a warning,” said Udinese coach Daniele Prade.

Mandragora — who won the Serie A and Italian Cup with Juventus in 2017 — spent last season on loan to Crotone before signing for Udinese last month.

The player from Naples has one cap for Italy after earning his first call-up under new national coach Roberto Mancini during a friendly loss to France last June.

AFP

Magazine Sued For ‘Blasphemous’ Painting Of Ancient Kings

 

The governor of Thailand’s Chiang Mai province has sued a local magazine for posting a “blasphemous” painting on Facebook of ancient kings wearing pollution masks as part of a campaign to protest the city’s hazardous smog.

All matters touching on the monarchy are highly sensitive in Thailand, a country where kings have been worshipped as near dieties and are protected by one of the world’s harshest royal defamation laws.

The broadly-interpreted crime of lese majeste — which can carry decades-long sentences — has cemented a culture of self-censorship across the kingdom’s academic, media and arts circles when it comes to royal affairs.

The risks of testing those boundaries were on display Friday when an English-language magazine faced legal action for posting an image on social media of three statues of ancient kings — a Chiang Mai landmark — in pollution masks.

The painting, which was the work of a local high school student, was posted on Citylife Chiang Mai’s Facebook page to promote a rally urging authorities to tackle a toxic haze that plagues the northern city annually.

The province’s governor called the artwork a “blasphemous act” and dispatched an official to file charges against the outlet under Thailand’s Computer Crime Act.

The cyber-crime law, which carries up to five years in prison for uploading false content to the web, is routinely used against perceived critics of the monarchy on social media, though it is not as harsh as the lese majeste law that carries up to 15 years per offence.

“I assigned my official to file a complaint with police yesterday that the picture may have violated the Computer Crime Act as it’s inappropriate,” Chiang Mai governor Pawin Chamniprasart told AFP on Saturday.

“The statues of three kings are very sacred and respected by Chiang Mai residents, they were our ancestors,” he added.

In an official letter to police, the governor said the painting “may affect Chiang Mai’s image and its tourism, causing the city economic instability”.

Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s largest cities and a major hub for travellers exploring the country’s lush and mountainous north.

But it also struggles with dangerous levels of air pollution during crop-burning season.

Police confirmed they were investigating the case, while the magazine announced that its ‘Right to Breathe’ protest had been cancelled.

In a Facebook post the teenage artist behind the painting said it was “a shame that people are hurt by a picture and not the polluted air that they are breathing in”.

Freedom of expression has been severely restricted in Thailand ever since a 2014 coup installed an ultra-royalist junta that has stamped out dissent and hounded monarchy critics.

Prosecutions under lese majeste and Computer Crime Act have shot up under their rule, often netting social media users.

AFP

Pakistani Court Sentences 23-Year-Old To Death Over Blasphemy Lynching

A Pakistani court sentenced one person to death and five others to life imprisonment on Wednesday for lynching a student accused of blasphemy, a crime which sent shockwaves through the conservative Muslim country.

Mashal Khan, 23, was stripped, beaten and shot by a gang made up mostly of students last April before being thrown from the second floor of his dormitory at Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan.

“One of the accused has been awarded a death sentence, (five) were given life imprisonment while 26 have been acquitted,” Saad Abbasi, a defence lawyer, told AFP at the prison where the verdict was announced.

An additional 25 were given three-year sentences, he added, saying he planned to file an appeal against the decision.

The court sentenced Imran Sultan Mohammad to death over his role in shooting Khan during the lynching, a crime he confessed to earlier.

Ahead of the verdict, heavy security was enforced at the jail in the city of Haripur where the accused were detained, with the area cordoned off by police and elite commandos.

The proceedings were held in an anti-terrorism court inside the jail for security reasons.

Around 100 relatives of the accused students waited outside the prison walls as news of the verdict trickled out.

“A day will come that the judge will answer the God. The verdict he has announced is unjust,” said Waheedullah, whose son was given a three-year sentence.

The brutality of the attack, which was recorded on mobile phone cameras and posted online, stunned the public and led to widespread condemnation — including from prominent Islamic clerics. Protests erupted in several cities.

Students who took part were rounded up after being identified through CCTV footage from the university and video clips.

An official report released months later concluded Khan was falsely accused, saying the murder was instigated by members of a secular student group who felt threatened by Khan’s growing prominence as a critic of rising fees and of alleged corruption at the university.

Blasphemy is an enormously sensitive charge in Pakistan, and a criminal offence that can carry the death penalty.

While the state has never executed anyone under blasphemy laws, mere allegations have prompted mob lynchings and lesser violence.

Since 1990 vigilantes have been accused of murdering 65 people tied to blasphemy, according to research compiled by the Center for Research and Security Studies.

AFP

Sharia Court Sentences Nine Persons To Death For Blasphemy In Kano

ShariaAn Upper Sharia Court in Kano State has sentenced nine persons including one Sheikh Abdul Nyas to death over blasphemous and inciting statements on the prophet of Islam.

Spokesperson of the Kano Sharia Courts, Ibrahim Baba-Jibo, made this known while addressing a news conference attended by Channels TV Correspondent, Idris Jibrin.

Early last month, a group of Tijjaniyya sect members, during Maulud in Kano, blasphemed the prophet of Islam and the action was followed by widespread protest in the state.

After series of hearing, the Kano State Upper Sharia Court, under Section 110 and Section 382B of the Sharia Penal Code 2000, the accused persons were sentenced to death.

However, four other persons namely Alkassim Abubakar, Yahaya Abubakar, Isa Abubakar and Abdullahi Abubakar were discharged and acquitted as they were not found wanting by the court.

It is therefore expected that the nine people will be executed once the Kano State Governor appends his signature on their execution form.