Petition to overturn Asia Bibi's death penalty surpasses 200,000 signatures

Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi is facing death for blasphemy(Photo: Voice of the Martyrs)

A petition on appealing for Asia Bibi's death sentence to be overturned has attracted more 230,000 signatures.

Bibi's death sentence for blasphemy was upheld by a court in Pakistan last week, prompting outcry from the country's persecuted Christian minority.

She was sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws after colleagues accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument.

Bibi's lawyers have said they will appeal the ruling and it will be down to the Supreme Court to decide if she will be executed or not. So far, no one sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan has had their sentence carried out.

The #SaveAsiaBibi petition was started by Emily Clarke, the same person who started the #SaveMeriam petition on in support of Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim which gained over a million signatures.

The Daily Mail reported this week that Bibi's two young daughters, Esham and Esha Masih, were abused by the same religious fanatics who led the charge against their mother.

They told the paper that when the allegations were first brought against Bibi, angry villagers turned up at their house and beat members of the family, even tearing off Bibi's dress.

Esham, now 14, told the Daily Mail: "I still dream of the day she was tortured and arrested. I could not sleep properly. The angry men came back and started torturing us both and tore down her clothes again."

She added: "They dragged her to the centre of the village. We both were crying but there was nobody to listen to us.

"After half an hour or so, the police came and my mother asked me to go and find my father, who was hiding at my uncle's house. But he was too terrified to leave. I ran back and by that time police had taken my mother away."

The situation for Christians in Pakistan is precarious because of the blasphemy laws. Human rights groups say they are frequently misapplied to persecute Christians, settle personal vendettas or seize their property.

When a Christian is accused of blasphemy, their families often have to go into hiding because of the threat of violent mobs. Even Christians who are acquitted of all charges in the courts have to go into hiding straight after their release from prison because of the threat to their lives.

Two high profile politicians who spoke up in defence of Asia Bibi were both assassinated in 2011. Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was killed by his own bodyguard, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed by members of the Pakistani Taliban.

Last month, a police officer shot and killed Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti in a Rawalpindi prison where he was being held on a blasphemy charge.

Bhatti was accused in 2012 of sending insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad's mother in text messages, but family members said the police investigations showed the phone to be registered to someone else.

Muhammad Asghar, a 70-year-old from Edinburgh sentenced to death in January for blasphemy, was injured in the attack.

Sign the #SaveAsiaBibi petition here