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Pakistani Christian On Death Row Among Nominees For Sakharov Prize

Asia Bibi sits inside the central jail in Sheikhupura in Punjab Province in November 2010.
Asia Bibi sits inside the central jail in Sheikhupura in Punjab Province in November 2010.

BRUSSELS -- Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have presented their nominations for this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought -- including Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan´s blasphemy law.

Polish MEP Anna Fotyga of the conservative ECR group in the European Parliament said on October 2 that Bibi's "behavior in prison, the dignity she has shown during all these years is the best proof of her being able to represent the dignity of a defender of human rights in the face of the worst fate."

Fotyga spoke at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs, development, and human rights committees in Strasbourg.

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

She was convicted and sentenced to hang after an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. Her supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute.

Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam can be sentenced to death. Rights groups say blasphemy laws are often abused to carry out personal vendettas, mainly against minority Christians.

Bibi is among six nominees for the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize, which honors individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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

On October 10, the European Parliament's foreign affairs and development committees are scheduled to vote on a shortlist of three finalists and the laureate is to be announced on October 26. The award ceremony will take place at the parliament in Strasbourg in December.