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Asia Bibi has not been freed despite Internet stories and rumors

Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death last year for alleged blasphemy, has not been pardoned and freed by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, despite stories and rumors that are floating around the Internet.

One British website, run by the Scottish Catholic Observer, reported, “Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, has been freed. She was released today after receiving a pardon by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and has gone into hiding over fears for her safety.

“The 45-year-old mother has been in prison since June 2009. She was found guilty of blasphemy despite there being no evidence that she committed the crime and her repeated denial of the charges laid against her. Ms Bibi was sentenced to death on November 8 this year by judge Naveed Iqbal.”

This old story has since been picked up by various bloggers and so I checked with the editor who explained, “The last time we reported on Asia Bibi in the SCO online was last year (story dated on November 23 2010) when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said he wanted to spare her. I was subsequently told he was overruled.”

This is the source of the story: The confusion is that today’s date appears when you check it out.

So then I contacted one of our ANS reporters in Pakistan who said, “No, Asia Bibi is still in detention. CLAAS [the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement Pakistan] was called by The US Embassy as well in this regard and one of their staff told the US Embassy that she was in still in jail.

Ms. Bibi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by Muslim field workers following a dispute over their different faiths. When she was asked to bring a cup of water to one of them, the women refused to drink from it, saying that it had been touched by a Christian and was therefore “unclean.” Her conviction and sentence caused an international outcry and shone a spotlight on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Pope Benedict XVI joined world leaders in appealing for Ms. Bibi’s release.

So please continue to pray for Asia Bibi that one day soon she will be freed and be reunited with her family. Until that day, let us all stand with this courageous Christian woman.

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