Attempts to visit Asia Bibi repeatedly denied, lawyer says
The father of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman on death row, has filed a High Court petition demanding the right to visit his daughter in jail after being repeatedly denied access since her 2010 conviction, his lawyer says.
"We filed a petition in the Lahore High Court after several requests to visit Asia Bibi were rejected by jail authorities and the province's Home Department," Sardar Mushtaq Gill, the lawyer for Bibi's father, Soran Masih, said on Aug. 23.
"It is Masih’s fundamental right to visit his daughter in jail and this cannot be denied by jail authorities or the Punjab government," Gill said.
Bibi, a Roman Catholic and mother of five, was sentenced to death in 2010 for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, a charge she denies. Bibi says she was targeted after drinking water from a vessel used by Muslim farmworkers.
The workers said it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same container and later reported her for blasphemy, saying she had insulted the Prophet Mohammad.
Her appeal against the death sentence is currently pending in the Supreme Court.
"Asia has been languishing in jail since 2009 and since her conviction, I haven't been able to meet her," her father Masih said.
"I am extremely worried about her health. There are reports in the media that Asia is suffering from internal intestinal bleeding" he said.
Provincial authorities did not give a reason for denying visitation rights.
Blasphemy remains an extremely sensitive issue in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, and the laws have drawn intense criticism even within the country.
Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti were both assassinated in early 2011 after they defended Bibi and spoke out against her death sentence and the misuse of the blasphemy laws.
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