Pakistani Christian Accused of Blasphemy Set Free

Benedict XVI Had Appealed for Her Freedom

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WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A Pakistani woman sentenced to death for allegedly blaspheming Mohammed has been released from prison following an international outcry that included a specific plea on her behalf from the Pope.

Asia Bibi was pardoned by the president of Pakistan, the group International Christian Concern reported today.

Bibi, 45, was charged a year ago for blaspheming Mohammed in a conflict with fellow farm workers. She was sentenced to death earlier this month.

At the conclusion of last Wednesday’s general audience, Benedict XVI appealed for her freedom.

He mentioned the plight of Pakistani Christians in general, who along with Hindus make up only a 5% minority in the Muslim country.  «In these days, the international community is following with great concern the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan, who are often victims of violence and discrimination,» the Holy Father said.   Then he mentioned Bibi specifically: «Today I particularly express my spiritual closeness to Mrs. Asia Bibi and her family, asking that she be given full liberty as soon as possible. As well, I pray for those who find themselves in similar situations, so that their human dignity and fundamental rights be fully respected.»

Human rights groups have long decried Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as a means by which people take advantage of religious minorities.

It is reported that Bibi is now in hiding out of fear for her safety. There are precedents of those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan being killed by vigilantes.

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