A Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan on charges of blaspheming Islam said on Saturday she had been wrongfully accused by neighbours due to a personal dispute, and appealed to the president to pardon her.
Asia Bibi, mother of four, is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law which rights groups say is often exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores. (Photo: Asia Bibi in an undated photo handed out by family members on November 13, 2010. Standing left to right is Bibi’s brother Ramzan, Asia, brother Yunus and son Imran)
The 36-year-old farm worker was taken into custody by police in June last year and was convicted by a lower court on Nov. 8. She has been in prison since then, with her case drawing international media attention as well as appeals by human rights groups, and, according to Pakistani media, Pope Benedict.
“I told police that I have not committed any blasphemy and this is a wrong accusation, but they did not listen to me,” Bibi told reporters after meeting with Salman Taseer, governor of the central Punjab province where she is imprisoned. “I have small kids. I have wrongly been implicated in this false case,” she said in the prison, covered in a cloak that only revealed her eyes.
Taseer said he would take up Bibi’s case with President Asif Ali Zardari, who has the constitutional power to pardon her. “Inshallah (God willing) her appeal will be accepted,” Taseer said, adding that he had studied Bibi’s case and found that she had not committed any blasphemy.