Friday, December 31, 2010


2010 was a very good year for the Journey of Hope.

We were represented at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s Conference in Louisville, KY, ECPM’s Fourth World Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, PFADP's KAIROS Conference in Atlanta, Sant' Egidio's Cities for Life Campaign through Europe, and most importantly the very successful Texas Journey of Hope October 15-31!

Led by murder victim family members, joined by death row families, exonerated and other abolitionists we are able to put the human face on the issue of the death penalty. Our unique stories touch people’s hearts and often cause them to change their minds on this important issue.

Thank you once again for your continued support for the Journey of Hope. We appreciate it greatly. Together we can abolish the death penalty!

Bill Pelke
President, Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing

Best Wishes for 2011! here

PS OR GO here

The card may also be printed.

I look forward to a new year of work to lift our organization to the next level!
Best Wishes to you and your loved ones!

Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing
Board Member & Secretary

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"The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity"
Bill Pelke, President

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

GEORGIA: We can live without capital punishment

"Some of us also feel that killing people is itself a crime."

GA: Kagel: Living without death penalty
Wed Dec 29, 2010 05:36

Kagel: Living without death penalty
Athens Banner-Herald
Published Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's been a rough year for government budgets, and serious cuts in Georgia's educational programs are being discussed. Wouldn't state legislators be happy to find a way to cut millions of dollars without jeopardizing public services?

We can live without one totally unnecessary and extremely costly program: capital punishment. Although Georgia has not undertaken a systematic study of the cost of its death penalty system, we can learn some lessons from other states.

Tennessee's comptroller found death penalty trials cost, on average, 48 percent more than trials where life imprisonment is sought. A Duke University economist has estimated North Carolina could save $11 million annually by repealing the death penalty. Florida could save $51 million per year by punishing all first-degree murderers with life imprisonment without parole, according to a Palm Beach Post study.

A wide majority of the country's top criminologists don't believe the death penalty deters crime. Check the website of the Death Penalty Information Center for more information.

Some of us also feel that killing people is itself a crime, and that the risk of killing an innocent person has a moral cost too high for Georgia to pay. We can live without the death penalty.

Laura Tate Kagel

• Laura Tate Kagel is affiliated with the Athens chapter of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

OnlineAthens dot com or GO here

Kevin Cooper and other US hypocrisies (Amnesty and More)

Amnesty has issued several releases calling for Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence to be Commuted:

GO here
and here

Regardless of Cooper's Innocence, where are the safeguards built into our US justice system which supposedly protects the Innocent until PROVEN guilty?

In a recent article by Stephen Lendman:

...Kevin Cooper's case is ... disturbing:

A Black American citizen, he was framed and wrongfully convicted of four June 1983 murders. Evidence proved him innocence, yet he's languished on death row ever since, and faces execution without gubernatorial clemency, pardon, or commutation of his sentence to life.

On December 23, the Los Angeles was supportive in its editorial headlined, "Governor, save inmate's life," saying:

"Even supporters of capital punishment should object to the execution of someone whose guilt is in serious doubt." Since judicial action didn't save him, "the burden is on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger...."

California has 717 inmates on death row. With near certainty, many there are as innocent as Cooper. However, no one intervenes on their behalf because they're poor, Black or Latino - throwaway people out of sight and mind until lethal injections painfully kill them.

"Much of the evidence against Cooper has been seriously questioned, most comprehensively in an opinion by Judge William A. Fletcher of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who dissented from a decision not to hear" Cooper's appeal. The above link covers his dissent in detail and his belief that Cooper is innocent, saying:

Based on convincing evidence, Cooper "is probably innocent of the crimes for which the state of California is about to execute him."

The LA Times "opposes the death penalty under any circumstances, and....wouldn't object if the governor commuted" all 717 death row inmates. "But execution is especially outrageous when the prisoner may be innocent. Gov. Schwarzenegger should commute Cooper's sentence."

In fact, Schwarzenegger should pardon him (and others wrongfully convicted), make full restitution for nearly three decades of injustice, and provide substantial aid to help him readjust in society, free at last and fully exonerated.


The International Justice Network's Executive Director, Tina Foster, reported the following - showing ongoing US injustices and inconsistencies in judicial matters affecting the ruin of many lives with imprisonments which amount to living death:

ACLU's Melissa Goodman said:

"Despite concerns that Bagram has become the new Guantanamo, the public remains in the dark when it comes to basic facts about the facility and whom our military is holding in indefinite military detention there. The public has a right to know...." No transparency "is even more disturbing considering the possibility that the US will continue holding and interrogating prisoners at Bagram well into the future."

Stephen Lendman continues in his latest OP Ed:

The ... US District Court for the Southern District of New York went along, violating international and US law, including provisions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibiting:

* -- "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
* -- outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
* -- the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people;" and
* -- requiring humane treatment under all circumstances.

It's well known that Pentagon/CIA prisoners at Bagram, Guantanamo, and other American torture prisons are brutalized, at times murdered, and denied all basic rights under international law that automatically is US law under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, Article VI, Clause 2. It states:

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary, notwithstanding."

Others have also written recently on Cooper's behalf - GO here

Here's Tina Foster's Report from Lahore, Pakistan (Tina Foster Continues with International Justice Network)

On December 22, The International News ( headlined, "Counsel urges unity to bring to bring Aafia home," saying:

Tina Foster said Muslims get second class justice in America, and unless Pakistan pressures Washington to send Aafia home, all Pakistanis will be at risk.

Others as well everywhere, including American citizens at home or abroad. Washington's extremism is so out-of-control that US and international laws don't matter, nor do those of other countries violated with impunity on their territory.

At the Lahore Press Club, Foster said Aafia's court-appointed attorneys would appeal her sentence, challenging both her conviction and 86 year imprisonment. If all Pakistanis and political parties were united on her behalf, she said, Washington might listen.

"The United States claims to have arrested Aafia in Pakistan (so America) should have sent her (there). But instead, they took a Pakistani sister and illegally transferred her all the way to the US," after torturing her for years at Bagram.

Foster added that Washington claims the right to imprison Aafia for life far from home and family. If Pakistan lets this "stand, the US government would have a green light to hold any Pakistani citizen traveling abroad and illegally send them to the United States, a country where Muslims get second class justice. If Pakistanis don't stand up for Aafia, no one will be able to stand up for other Pakistanis at their hour of need."

FOR URLS to the above and Related Items:
GO here

While I do believe we should network across national boundaries to speak against inhumanity, injustice, death penalty and such threats wherever we find it, the following makes some hard to debate points about US inconsistencies:

GO here for December 30, 2010 article: Western double standards
By Yvonne Ridley

Also see an outspoken activists who's seeking to right wrongs toward women (and particularly the case of a victim who faces hanging in Pakistan):

Marvi Sirmed Columnist / Independent Blogger,Founder Editor of Baaghi:
GO here

Note find more on all the above issue in posts below/in archives and also at the following blogsites:

No More Crusades

One Heart for Peace

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bradley Manning: Example of Inhumane Treatment in our Military Prisons

Manning spent his 23rd birthday on Friday completely isolated, just as he has every day for the last five months months in his cell at the Quantico Marine Base.

Manning is the Marine Private accused of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. Since July, he has been held in cruel and inhumane conditions akin to how the US detains "enemy combatants." He spends each day completely isolated, with severe restrictions placed on basic activities like sleep and exercise. Yet he has not been convicted of any crime.

The extreme isolation in which Manning has spent every day of the last five months is soul-crushing. It’s already taking its toll: Bradley Manning’s physical and mental health are suffering, according to his attorney and friend who have seen him in prison.

Bradley Manning deserves humane treatment while he awaits trial. Can you please add your name to our letter urging Commanding Officer of Quantico Marine Corp Base to lift the heavy restrictions of Manning’s detention?

Bradley's friend, David House, will deliver your letter to the Commanding Officer at the Quantico Marine Base brig when he visits Bradley next month.

While Manning is held in “maximum custody,” the military’s most severe detention policy, he is also under a longstanding “Prevention of Injury” (POI) order that adds additional restrictions beyond those of other prisoners. While POI orders typically last a week or two, Manning has been held under a POI order for the entirety of his detention.

A day in the life of Bradley Manning is isolating, lonely, and frustrating.

* Manning stays in his cell for 23 hours a day
* Guards must check on him every 5 minutes, and he must respond each time
* He is not allowed to sleep between 5am and 8pm
* Substantive exercise is not allowed beyond walking, potentially in chains
* Communication with other people in the brig is banned, and he cannot write to people outside beyond the few a list approved by the brig commander; any unapproved letters he receives are destroyed.
* He has not been allowed to read newspapers or watch international news during TV time
* Comfortable sleep is impossible; he must surrender his clothes each night, has only a heavy “suicide blanket” akin to an x-ray vest, and guards must be able to see his face at all times.

A psychologist has said Manning isn’t a danger to himself or others, and the POI order is unnecessary. His lawyer has also been unable to have the POI order lifted. But it is clear that Bradley Manning has been subjected to inhumane and unnecessary punishment without being convicted of a crime, and it must stop now.

Stop the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning. Please add your name to our letter urging the Marine Commander in charge of Manning lift the unnecessary POI order.

No matter what you think of Manning's alleged acts, there is no reason to subject him to these extreme conditions. Thank you for standing up for human rights.

- Michael Whitney

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Executing "makes our hearts destructive"

More than 1800 people held a rally in Tokyo on Sunday, calling for the abolition of the death penalty. GO here

"One senseless killing need not beget another"

My brother was murdered and I support ending death penalty

Posted: Friday, Dec. 17, 2010 in the Charlotte Observer

BY Charisse Coleman, a writer and mental health counselor in Durham:

Every time we talk about ending the death penalty in North Carolina, someone throws out the old question: What if someone in your family were murdered? How would you feel then? For most people, that ends the discussion. Not for me.

In 1995, a man walked into the liquor store where my brother worked as a stock clerk and shot him to death. The killer wanted the contents of the cash drawer. For reasons we will never understand, the man launched the robbery by shooting Russell three times in the back, while leaving two other employees unharmed. He now awaits execution in Louisiana.

It was a senseless crime, and it has sometimes been hard over the last 15 years to keep this single event from turning me into someone I don't want to be. Someone more interested in vengeance than justice, for instance.

Precisely because I refuse to let a murderer sour my soul and embitter my life, because I refuse to let him dictate to me the limits of my capacity to heal and thrive, I stand firmly with the growing number of North Carolinians who believe that we must stop looking to a deeply flawed capital punishment system to soothe our anger and grief over violent crime.One senseless killing need not beget another.

Read more here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

TEXAS: Is the tide turning?

Pehaps this is in part a result of our faithful "frontline activists" who were part of the most recent (and other) "Journeys" in Texas? Thanx for ALL you continue to do worldwide. Connie

Is the tide turning against the death penalty?
Mon, Dec 13, 2010
Michael Landauer/Editor

A new report by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty illustrates how doubt is casting its shadow over the justice system in the state. Only eight people were sentenced to death by Texas juries this year, a record low since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Juries opted for life sentences without parole and rejected death sentences in three other cases.

Three prisoners received last-minute reprieves from the Supreme Court, and serious questions were raised about wrongful conviction in another case where Texas had already executed Claude Jones. Also, six prisoners had their sentences reduced on appeal, meaning that prosecutors, judges and/or juries had made serious errors in seeking justice.

The full press release, including links to interactive maps and the full report, can be found here:

Only 2% of Texas Counties Imposed Death Sentences This Year, According to New Report from TCADP
Death sentences, executions drop in 2010 as concerns about reliability and fairness continue to plague Texas death penalty system

(Austin, Texas) -- Death sentences in Texas have dropped more than 70% since 2003, reaching a historic low in 2010 according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's (TCADP) new report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2010: The Year in Review. TCADP, an Austin-based statewide, grassroots advocacy organization, releases this annual report each December in conjunction with the anniversary of the resumption of executions in Texas in 1982.

Juries condemned eight new individuals to death in Texas in 2010, which is the lowest number of new death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas' revised death penalty statute in 1976. These new sentences occurred in six counties: Brazos; Dallas; Harris; Nueces; Rusk; and Travis.

Recent sentencing trends illustrate the arbitrary and biased imposition of the death penalty. An analysis of data from 2007 to 2010 reveals that only 21 counties - 8% of the 254 counties in Texas - meted out death sentences over the last four years. Out of a total 43 death sentences imposed statewide between 2007 and 2010, Dallas County leads with seven, followed closely by Harris County, with six new sentences. Bexar and Travis Counties each accounted for three new death sentences since 2007. Nearly three-fourths of all death sentences in Texas over the last four years have been imposed on people of color - 40% African American, 30% Hispanic/Latino, and 2% other.

As part of the report, TCADP has produced two interactive maps highlighting new death sentences by county from 2007 to 2010 and from 1976 to 2010. Clicking on each county reveals the total number of sentences, the number executed, the number awaiting execution, and the number exonerated. See below for links to each map.

The number of executions also dropped in 2010. The State of Texas executed 17 people, the lowest number since 2001. The state remains the nation's leading executioner, accounting for approximately 37% of U.S. executions in 2010. The number of executions in Texas this year represents a smaller percentage of the national total than it has in recent years, however.

"Texas - along with the rest of the nation - is moving away from the death penalty," said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "The system is broken beyond repair, and the continued decline in new death sentences shows that jurors and prosecutors in Texas are seeking other ways to address violent crime."

Concerns about wrongful convictions and emerging evidence of wrongful executions dominated headlines this year. On October 27, 2010 Anthony Graves walked out of the Burleson County Jail after spending 18 years in prison - including 12 years on death row - for a crime he did not commit. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Graves and declared him innocent after conducting their own investigation of the case. His conviction was based on the testimony of Robert Carter, who was convicted and executed for the same crime in 2000 and who recanted several times, including from the gurney. Anthony Graves is the 12th person in Texas to be wrongfully convicted and removed from death row and the 138th nationwide.

The ongoing inquiry into the case of Cameron Todd Willingham also underscored the fallibility of the system. Willingham was executed in 2004 for setting a fire to his Corsicana home in 1991 that killed his three young daughters. The Texas Forensic Science Commission admitted "flaws" in the science used to convict him. In January it will hold a special meeting with some of the fire experts who have examined the case since the time of conviction and concluded that there was no evidence to support the finding of arson.

In another case of "flawed" science, recent DNA testing of evidence that was used to convict and execute Claude Jones ten years ago this month revealed that the strand of hair belonged to the victim, not to Jones, as a forensic expert testified during his 1990 trial. While the DNA results do not exonerate Jones, they raise serious questions about the reliability of his conviction.

Other highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2010: The Year in Review include the following:
• In three capital murder trials, juries rejected the death penalty and opted for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Over the last three years, juries have rejected the death penalty in a dozen cases (two each in Travis and Bexar Counties).
• Three inmates scheduled for execution in 2010 received last-minute stays; the execution date of another inmate was withdrawn. On March 24, Henry "Hank" Skinner received a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court shortly after eating his "last meal." In October, the Court heard arguments to determine whether Skinner can seek access to post-conviction DNA testing through the federal Civil Rights Act. Texas officials have refused to release key pieces of evidence gathered at the crime scene in 1993 for testing.
• At least six inmates received reduced sentences in 2010 and were removed from the death row population, including several inmates whose death sentences were overturned because jurors did not hear mitigating evidence during their original trials. Three other inmates died in custody, including Ronald Chambers, who spent 35 years on death row and was awaiting a fourth sentencing hearing related to the 1975 murder of Mike McMahan.
• A nationwide shortage of the first drug used in the lethal injection protocol, sodium thiopental, led some states to postpone executions as their supplies dwindle or expire. In November, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice revealed that they had enough drugs on hand to execute 39 people, but that doses of sodium thiopental will expire in March 2011.
• There currently are 317 people (307 men and 10 women) on death row in Texas. Texas holds the third-largest death row population in the nation, after California (713) and Florida (393).

"2010 may go down in history as the 'Year of Doubt,' when case after case exposed the flaws and failures of the Texas death penalty and shook public faith in the criminal justice system to its core," said Houlé. "During this time of fiscal crisis, TCADP urges all elected officials to take a good hard look at the death penalty system and ask whether this is a good use of tax payers' dollars when there are alternative ways to protect society and punish those who are truly guilty."

Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2010: The Year in Review is available online. OR click here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poll: End North Carolina Death Penalty?

Note: Find items on AASIA BIBI in post just below this one or click here

December 13, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - A majority of people in North Carolina are willing to consider ending their state's death penalty, according to a new poll released today by the Fair Trial Initiative. The survey found that recent news of wrongful convictions and tainted forensic evidence at the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) labs are prompting people to reconsider the controversial punishment.

Mark Kleinschmidt, executive director of the Fair Trial Initiative in Durham, explains the poll results.

"North Carolinians are saying two to one: 'Don't execute anyone until we can be sure that all the evidence was good evidence, and the testing points to the guilty party.'"

Those in favor of the death penalty argue that it still has a place in the justice system for the most extreme crimes. In the poll, 80-percent of respondents identified themselves as either moderate or conservative.

Advocates for ending the death penalty claim that doing so would save $11 million a year in capital punishment costs to the state. Kleinschmidt explains why it's so expensive.

"The way that our death penalty system is operating in North Carolina, it's hard to imagine a less-efficient use of taxpayer dollars. It gives us pause."

In addition to issues with evidence-handling at the North Carolina SBI crime labs, studies have pointed to a racial bias in death sentences. This led to the passage of the Racial Justice Act last year; it allows inmates who can prove racial bias to have their sentence converted to life in prison without parole.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC

Find original article featured at Pubic News Service dot org on Monday here

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

UPDATE - 2nd January for: Aasia Bibi's Cross (Updated December 14)

I decided to post this editorial here to 1) show one clear example of MANY Muslims and other Journalists in Pakistan who've been speaking out against Aasia Bibi's verdict as well as 2) an important piece with truth/wisdom for us ALL: here

Aasia Bibi

The daughters of Aasia Bibi hold a photo of their mother outside their residence in Ittanwalai, Pakistan, Nov. 13. Reuters

See Dec. 14th and other Updates below...

Because there's so much injustice the US has rained down on the world, including with the recent sentencing of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years and she's now in Texas - an horrific prison with a history of abusing women - I hesitate to bring up another woman's heart-wrenching case in another land. (Since we don't know how to get the motes out of our own eyes)...but we are ONE HUMANITY...and are ALL needed to stand against the death penalty and a harsh sentence to life behind bars no matter what. What should it matter to us whether our stand is for a Muslim woman or a Christian one no matter our own persuasian? In PAKISTAN, Christians, Muslims and NGOs are mobilizing for Asia Bibi...Increasingly, people are speaking out against the blasphemy law as a tool for personal vendettas and fodder for extremism. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions in favor of Asia Bibi's life. Still she and her family wait, wondering. Catholic and Protestant leaders as well as Muslim scholars and non-governmental organizations have slammed a court’s decision to impose the death sentence on this Christian women convicted on blasphemy charges. She is the first woman sentenced to death for such an offense, and many Pakistanis are pressuring the government to change or repeal the country’s “obscene” blasphemy legislation. (This and following intro is from Asia News)

Chair Anis Haroon
Just as activists, scholars and many others in America speak out when it comes to the death penalty, so do many in Pakistan. Among them, the Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Anis Haroon said the commission was concerned about Aasia Bibi’s security. She said minorities were not harming the interests of the country. Former chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology Dr Khalid Masood said there was ‘religious illiteracy’ even among the literates. He said nowhere in the Holy Quran there is mention of death sentence for those committing blasphemous acts.

Aasia Bibi was arrested in the village of Ittanwalai under Section 295 C. Judge Naveed Iqbal imposed the death sentence almost year after the offence took place.
Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, 51, told AsiaNews that he would appeal her sentence, which must be upheld by the Lahore high court, the highest tribunal in Punjab before it can be carried out. Asia and Ashiq have two sons and three daughters.

"Aasia is innocent, the villagers are taking out a personal revenge", Sadiq Masih a close relative told AsiaNews. In the meantime, Life for All has launched a nationwide ‘Save Bibi’ campaign. In a week, it got 76,000 signatures. Another NGO, Peace Pakistan, has reached 51,000 signatures.

...Muhammad Hafiz, an Islamic scholar, spoke to AsiaNews about it: “The death sentence of Asia Bibi came as a shock to me” because “Islam teaches us to protect religious minorities,” he said.

The following article is by Noel Irwin Hentschel who is extensively involved in Interfaith work as a Fransciscan and has spent time in area of Asia Bibi's family:

Pakistan: The Shame and the Promise

The world is shocked by the death sentence imposed in Pakistan on Aasia Bibi, a young Christian mother of five, imprisoned under the country's controversial blasphemy statute. This inhumane act paradoxically occurred while devout Muslims fulfilled their Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca where they prayed for Allah's mercy. This punishment is contrary to Islamic teachings on justice.

How can the benevolent act of sharing water, the source of life, undertaken by this Pakistani Christian woman toward her Pakistani Muslim co-worker lead to a death sentence? The co-worker refused to accept water drawn from the same barrel as a non-Muslim sparking a callous and controversial case.

Court documents indicate that the encounter provoked two unmarried women to accuse Bibi of making an offensive remark about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Bibi denies this allegation testifying that she never defiled the Prophet or commented against Islam. She maintains her innocence but asked forgiveness and after already serving 15 months in prison received an astounding response by the judge who condemned her to be executed. Leaving one to ponder, where is Islamic justice?

This harsh Blasphemy Law, forced upon Pakistan by former President Zia ul Haq, was one of the first examples by extremists in Pakistan to manipulate and exploit Islam for their own political gain. In Zia's case, it was consolidation of power. Later his supporter Nawaz Sharif, known for ordering the Pakistan nuclear tests in 1998, now heading the hardliner Pakistan Muslim League PML(N), continued the politicization of Islam. Equally disturbing are the actions of former self installed President, Pervez Musharraf, who defends the cruel Hadood ordinances that force women to produce four witnesses when they are raped or be arrested for adultery.

This pattern of perversion of Islamic principles in Pakistan now rivets the world's attention as it did when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated three years ago. Bibi and her family fear that she will be murdered as well while waiting for justice to be served. The death sentence against Asia Bibi for blasphemy is not only directed against her and her family, but in a broader sense against all of Pakistan, a nation whose international reputation hangs by a thread.

The Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan are antithetical to the protections to minorities guaranteed in Pakistan's Constitution and the very concept of religious freedom on which Pakistan was founded in 1947. A study by the National Commission for Justice and Peace reports that a total of 964 people have been charged under this ordinance: 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmedis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus and 10 of other religions. Thirty-two people charged with blasphemy have been murdered through extra-judicial killings. In the case of Asia Bibi, the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court said, "the treatment meted out to the woman was an insult to humanity."

Fortunately the current elected President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, has taken a forthright stand, reiterating "Pakistan is a nation of many religions and all Pakistanis, no matter what their faith, are equal under the law." Zardari recently indicated that if his action is necessary, he "will grant clemency to Bibi to insure that she is neither incarcerated nor harmed." However, Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) does not have the necessary votes in Parliament to repeal these dysfunctional blasphemy statutes and there is pressure for him to acquiesce to radical extremist factions. It is wrong and unjust that Nawaz Sharif, head of the second largest party in Pakistan, refuses to join with Zardari to change this discriminatory law.

It is unacceptable that billions of dollars of US economic aid are flowing to a nation that is persecuting minorities. The blasphemy edicts send a message to the international business community that Pakistan is an unwelcome place to invest and to do business. The blasphemy laws do not only undermine justice and decency in Pakistan, but subverts Pakistan's place in the community of nations. My visits to Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi, working with people of Pakistan from various fields, validates the potential promise of Pakistan, but only if these unjust and malevolent laws are repealed.

The Holy Qur'ān demands that Muslims bring about justice with benevolence (ihsān), "Surely God enjoins justice and doing good to others (ihsān) (16:90)." According to Mohammad Hashim Kamali, author of Foundations of Islam: Shari'ah Law "Justice must be attempted in the spirit of ihsān, that is, even when it is not demanded by anyone; the attempt should be in equity and good faith which would gain the pleasure of God." The responsibility of justice by Muslims to non-Muslims is found in Ibn al-Qayyim's teachings in Al-Turuq al-Hukmiyah, "Any path that leads to justice and fairness is an integral part of the religion and can never be contrary to it." Muslims towards non-Muslims are directed in the Qur'ān to act justly with benevolence, "God forbids you not to do good and be just. God loves those who have strived for justice (60:8)."

My lifework is to advance economic opportunities and support for those in need with initiatives that bring people of all religions together for peace. Inspired and mentored by Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity; I travel to far regions of the world supporting their ministry of universal love. As a mother, it was heart wrenching seeing the tears of sorrow on Bibi's 12-year-old daughter, Isham Masih and to hear this child's agonizing pleas for her mother's life...


14 December UPDATE

Research Brief Pakistan's Jinnah Institute here and another case brought up on the online institute site here

Amnesty International Report/OPed here


2nd December 2010 UPDATE:

Like the US, Pakistan fails in some significant ways on rights...Although we are in a tough position to point fingers - the anti-death penalty movement universally brings light and makes neutral our concerns. Petitions are easily available online on behalf of Aasia Bibi and this just in from Human Rights Watch:

From: HRW Press
Sent: Thu 02/12/2010 09:59
To: HRW Press
Subject: Pakistan: Allow Pardon for Blasphemy Victim

For Immediate Release

Pakistan: Allow Pardon for Blasphemy Victim
High Court Overreaches in Barring Presidential Pardon

(New York, December 2, 2010) – A Pakistani court’s order to bar President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a woman sentenced to death for blasphemy contravenes Pakistan’s constitution and should be withdrawn immediately, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Lahore High Court in Punjab province issued an order on November 29, 2010, barring Zardari from exercising his constitutional authority to pardon Aasia Bibi, an illiterate farmhand who had been convicted by the Sheikhupura District Court of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Zardari had ordered a review of the case in mid-November, after domestic and international outrage over the sentence. A ministerial inquiry concluded on November 25 that the district court verdict was legally unsound.

“The Lahore high court has overstepped its constitutional authority by preventing President Zardari from pardoning Aasia Bibi, who was unjustly convicted under a discriminatory law,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The court has blocked Zardari from promptly correcting a cruel wrong and instead has disgraced Pakistan’s judiciary.”

Aasia Bibi was charged under the blasphemy law after a June 2009 altercation with fellow farm workers who refused to drink water she had touched, contending it was “unclean” because she was Christian. On November 8, the Sheikhupura District Court found her guilty, ruling that there were “no mitigating circumstances.”

She is the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to capital punishment for blasphemy, though others have been charged and given lesser sentences.

Pakistan’s constitution is unequivocal in providing the president with the power to pardon, Human Rights Watch said. Article 45 of the constitution states that, “The president shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve, and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.”

Prior to the action of the Lahore High Court, senior Pakistani government officials had indicated to Human Rights Watch and to the media that Zardari was likely to use his constitutional prerogative to pardon and free Aasia Bibi.

The court stated in its interim order that any pardon would be “premature” as Aasia Bibi’s appeal of her conviction was pending before the court. Senior Pakistani lawyers, including Asma Jahangir, a prominent human rights advocate and president of the prestigious Supreme Court Bar Association, the country’s most influential forum for lawyers, have publicly criticized the Lahore High Court order.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for repeal of the blasphemy law and other discriminatory provisions in Pakistan’s penal code. International and Pakistani human rights organizations have long called for the repeal of the blasphemy law, as section 295-C of the penal code is known, which makes the death penalty mandatory for blasphemy. The law has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks as a consequence of the Aasia Bibi case. In 2009, authorities charged scores of people under the law. Many of them remain in prison.

“Not only do those charged under the blasphemy law suffer persecution, it is evident the ill effects of discriminatory laws are compounded by unsympathetic courts,” Hasan said.

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For more information, please contact:
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In London, Tom Porteous (English): +44-20-7713-2766; or +44-79-8398-4982 (mobile)