Asia Bibi nominated for Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

ReutersBibi's daughters pose with an image of their mother while standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura located in Pakistan's Punjab Province.

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan's blasphemy law, has been nominated for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The prize is awarded to those who make exceptional contributions to the fight for human rights, or those who bring attention to human rights violations.

Bibi has been on a death row for almost seven years. She has had her appeal to Pakistan's Supreme Court postponed to an undetermined date.

Bibi, her husband and their five children were the only Christians in their village in Punjab, where she was repeatedly urged to convert to Islam. She was convicted and sentenced to hang after an argument with a Muslim woman which began when she told Bibi that she could not drink from the same cup as she was an 'unclean' Christian.

According to Bibi, when the woman derided Christianity, she responded 'I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?' This led to her being accused of insulting Muhammad, and her arrest. In 2010, she was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

She became the first Pakistani woman condemned to death for blasphemy.

Peter Van Dalen, a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, nominated Bibi for the prize.

'Asia Bibi's case is of symbolic importance for others who have endured simply for expressing freedom of religion,' he said.

In her we see the situation of the whole Christian community,' Kaleem Dean, a Pakistani analyst, told Fides news agency. Her case is tragically indicative of the insecurity faced by all minorities when it comes to their fundamental human rights.'

According to Dean, charges of blasphemy are "an instrument of what has become state oppression against minorities. Governors should have the courage and vision to reform the blasphemy law.'

Bibi is among six nominees for the Sakharov Prize. The others nominees are Guatemalan human rights defender Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic; co-chairs of a pro-Kurdish party in Turkey, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag; the Swedish-Eritrean prisoner of conscience Dawit Isaak; a group of people representing the Venezuelan opposition; and Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a Burundian human rights defender.

The winner of the prize will be announced on October 26 and the award ceremony will take place at the parliament in Strasbourg in December.