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Why Are Health Reports on Pakistan's Death-row Christian, Asia Bibi, So Contradictory?

Asif Aqeel/Worldwatch Monitor : Oct 28, 2015  Charisma News

"Asia is probably the only prisoner in Pakistan who has been given a TV set in her cell. She looked healthy and normal, but I still asked her if she suffered any serious illness..."

The lawyer of the only Pakistani Christian woman to be given the death penalty for alleged blasphemy met her in prison last week, reporting that she is safe and in good health.

The final appeal for Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, is pending before Pakistan's top court, after the Lahore High Court turned down her appeal last October on technical grounds. The mother of five has been in prison since the summer of 2009, when she was arrested on allegations of insulting the prophet of Islam.

Defense lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told World Watch Monitor that he was accompanied by Asia Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih on his Oct. 21 visit in the Multan Women's Prison.

Through Malook, a prominent attorney and expert in Islamic law, Noreen had been allowed to take the final appeal against her death penalty to the Supreme Court in Islamabad in July 2015.

Malook told World Watch Monitor that since early October several foreign news agencies, including one from the Vatican, contacted him over news that Noreen's health was worsening. "After this I decided to visit the prison and personally meet Asia, to ascertain if the news was correct," he said.

"Only family of the inmate or the lawyer representing the convict can visit the chamber, so Ashiq and I went together to see her. Inmates on death row are separated and locked into an 8-by-10 feet chamber called a death cell," Malook said.

"There are three death cells in this prison and Asia is the only death convict, so two cells are empty. She has been given one servant who sits outside the lockup for any help," the lawyer said. "Asia is probably the only prisoner in Pakistan who has been given a TV set in her cell. She looked healthy and normal, but I still asked her if she suffered any serious illness."

"Asia has totally denied she ever suffered any serious illness since 2009 in prison. She became happy when I told her that she would soon be released," her lawyer said.

Malook stated that the deputy-superintendent of police was also present during his meeting with Noreen. "There are no men in the prison, and one extra female police officer is deployed outside her chamber so that her security could be ensured," he said.

Masih confirmed to World Watch Monitor that he had visited his wife with Malook, and that none of his daughters accompanied them on this visit. He could see "a glimmer of hope" on Noreen's face, her husband said.

Malook's account of Noreen's health contrasts with reports, which began to surface a year ago, that she had become seriously ill. Since that time, hard evidence or on-the-record testimony about her condition has been scarce, and...

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