World church body troubled at death sentence against Pakistan's Asia Bibi

(Photo: REUTERS / Athar Hussain)Employees of Pakistan's biggest television station Geo TV attend a protest against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority after the station's license was suspended, in Karachi May 22, 2014. Pakistan's Geo TV said it was ramping up security on Tuesday after it became the object of dozens of blasphemy accusations for playing a song during an interview with an actress.

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit is deeply concerned over the rejection of an appeal against the death sentence for Asia Bibi, convicted under Pakistan's blasphemy law.

To promote tolerance, religious harmony and protection of the rights of religious minorities, Tveit said it is important that justice is ensured in cases like that of Asia Bibi.

"The alleged circumstances of the incident which led to the blasphemy charges against Ms Bibi are highly questionable, and the imposition of the death penalty in this case is totally inappropriate," said Tveit.

"Apart from the issues of religious freedom, the charges, on-going imprisonment and threat of execution seem to have infringed Ms Bibi's basic human rights," Tveit said in a statement issued from the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on 27 October.

The American Center for Law and Justice has started a petition asking the U.S. government to stop sending foreign aid to Pakistan, the country that recently upheld the death sentence for Christian mother Asia Bibi for blasphemy.

Figures have shown that the United States sent close to $8 billion to Pakistan in the past five years while Bibi has been imprisoned, Christian Post reported.

Calling the blasphemy law prone to abuse, Tveit expressed his hope that the Pakistan Supreme Court will reverse the decision from the lower court in Bibi's case.

"I look forward to encouraging people of good will, both in Pakistan and in the wider world, to work together to encourage the amendment in the blasphemy law under which such charges have been made The Asia Bibi," Tveit said.

The WCC head noted, "The protection of the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious affiliation is a responsibility of the Pakistani government, as is putting an end to human rights violations and extra-judicial killings associated with the blasphemy law."

The WCC over a number of years has expressed concern on the abuse of Pakistan's blasphemy law along with its member churches in the country.

In 2009, the Central Committee, the main governing body of the WCC, issued a statement on the misuse of the blasphemy law and the security of religious minorities in Pakistan.

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