Geneva (AsiaNews) - On the day
that another young woman is accused of blasphemy, 50 human rights activists and
prominent figures, including a former president of the UN General Assembly, appealed
to the Pakistani government for Asia Bibi's release.
The Christian mother of five has
been on death row since November 2010 convicted on the basis of the 'black law',
waiting in the isolation ward of the Sheikhupura Women's Prison in Punjab for
her appeal to be heard.
Muslim extremists last year murdered
Punjab Governor Punjab Salman Taseer and Federal Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz
Bhatti because they had called for her release.
Pope Benedict XVI also pleaded on
behalf of Asia Bibi, who is physically and morally exhausted from her long imprisonment.
The United Nations Human Rights
Council is currently meeting at the UN headquarters at the Palace of Nations in
Geneva (Switzerland) until 23 March.
journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet yesterday presented the petition on Asia Bibi's
behalf. She is the author of Blasphéme
(Blasphemy), a book that relates Asia Bibi's story. Afterwards she spoke to 400
activists gathered for the Geneva Summit of Human Rights.
The former president of the
United Nations General Assembly in 2002-2003 Jan Kavan, former prisoner of
conscience and survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre Yang Jianli, New Hope
Foundation President Christina Fu and Vanee Meisinger, of the Pan Pacific and
Southeast Asia Women's Association of Thailand, are among the petition signatories.
The latter mentions the "crime" Asia
Bibi (pictured here with two of her
children) is supposed to have committed. It all began when she drank a glass
of water from a well owned by a Muslim. This led to accusations that she had contaminated
the well followed by a discussion among women workers that ended with charges
against Asia Bibi of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
The petition also describes the
poor conditions in which the prisoners is forced to live, a "windowless cell,
where she can touch both walls by stretching out her two arms."
Lastly, the signatories note that
the 'black law' has led to all sorts of abuses as it is used against business rivals
or members of ethnic and religious minorities.
By way of conclusion, the
petition appeals to "the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to free
In the meantime, another young
Christian woman has been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Police in the district of Bahawalnagar,
Lahore, charged Shamim, 26, the mother of a five-month baby girl, with
insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
The alleged incident occurred on
28 February of this year and became public yesterday when she was taken into
custody by police.
According to her family, Shamim
was unjustly accused because she refused to convert to Islam. The accusations
came from relatives who had recently converted.