Christian woman arrested for blasphemy as petition goes to UN on Asia Bibi's behalf
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.
France 24 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 Asia Bibi."
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.