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Blasphemy convict tortured in Pakistani jail

October 12, 2011 15:53 IST

A Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy was allegedly tortured by a staffer of the jail in Punjab province where she is being held, according to a media report on Wednesday.

Aasia Bibi is currently being held in a special cell in Sheikhupura Jail due to "severe security threats". The warden of the jail, Khadeeja, tortured Aasia Bibi after alleging that certain prohibited items were found in her cell, The Express Tribune quoted its sources as saying.

Other staff members, who were present during the incident, acted as silent spectators, the report said. Despite having knowledge of the incident, Sheikhupura Jail's Deputy Superintendent Ghafoor Anjum has not taken any action against Khadeeja.

Superintendent Sheikh Khalid Pervaiz later suspended Khadeeja and an inquiry into the incident has been launched. An intelligence agency has sent a report regarding the incident to its provincial headquarters after recording Aasia Bibi's statement.

In its report, the intelligence agency said the incident occurred due to the jail administration's negligence and expressed its fears that the matter might get out of hand.

Bibi, a resident of a village near Nankana Sahib, was sentenced to death by a sessions court last year after she was charged with blasphemy following an altercation between her and some other women.

The women had refused to drink water brought by Bibi, reportedly because she is a Christian. Her lawyer filed an appeal seeking a pardon from President Asif Ali Zardari, who asked for a review of the case.

On November 29, 2010, then Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif issued an order that the president could not issue a pardon for Bibi.

The case received worldwide attention, with Pope Benedict and leaders from around the world urging that the mother of five be freed.

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who championed Bibi's case, was gunned down in January by a police guard who was angered by his criticism of the blasphemy law.

Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih and their children went into hiding in an undisclosed Christian enclave sometime last year. Masih is convinced that his family has been targetted for death by radical Islamic groups.

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