11/18/2010, 00.00
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Some 2,500 people sign petition against Asia Bibi’s “disgraceful” sentence

by Jibran Khan
Our appeal is picked up in Hungary and Eastern Europe. Punjab governor calls Bibi’s case “disgraceful”, an “embarrassment for Pakistan”. Pakistan’s Minorities minister says the sentence will not be carried out and that the woman can appeal the verdict.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer told AsiaNews that Asia Bibi’s death penalty sentence is “a disgraceful episode. It is an embarrassment for Pakistan.”

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of three, has been in prison since last year after some Muslim women, fellow farm workers, accused her of blasphemy because of an altercation. A local court convicted her on the charges and sentenced her to death.

“These laws are used to victimise Christians and other groups. They are a foul leftover from the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq,” Taseer explained.

In an attempt to be reassuring, the governor insisted that the sentence would not be carried out since the appeal court still has to decide whether or not to uphold the sentence.

Federal Minorities Minister Shabbaz Bhatti explained that the protection of the lives and property of members of minority groups is a constitutional obligation of the government.

In a recent letter to the Government of Punjab, he asked that Asia Bibi be provided every opportunity to plead her case on its merits at the appeal court and that she be protected whilst in jail.

He noted that in most cases, blasphemy is used to settle personal scores, carry out political vendettas or fuel religious tensions.

In the meantime, AsiaNews’ campaign on Asia Bibi’s behalf continues. In just three days, more than 2,500 individuals, news agencies and associations have signed the appeal issued on 15 November.

The international campaign has continued to draw support around the world. It has been picked up for example in Hungary and Eastern Europe, as confirmed by hundreds of e-mail messages coming from that region in the past few hours.

Many more messages came in yesterday from Vietnam, China, Malaysia and other Asian countries.

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