Asia Bibi, Christian Mother Sentenced to Death, Nominated for Prestigious Religious Freedom Prize

(Photo: Reuters)Asia Bibi (R) was sentenced to execution in 2010 after being accused by her former colleagues of blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammad.

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian mother of five who has spent seven years on death row due to blasphemy charges, has been nominated for a prestigious European Union religious freedom prize.

"Her case is a symbol for others hurt in their freedom of expression and especially freedom of religion," Dutch Europarliamentarian Peter van Dalen of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group's member faction ChristenUnion-SGP told BosNewsLife on Wednesday.

"It is good that my colleagues in the ECR and I continue to defend the rights of Bibi and many others."

Bibi is now in the running for the $59,500 award that comes with the Sakharov Prize. The ceremony will be held on Dec. 10 in Strasbourg, France.

The mother's ongoing legal saga began back in 2009, after Muslim co-workers accused her of blasphemy for praising Jesus Christ and allegedly insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Bibi denied the charge but was found guilty and sentenced to death in November 2010. Several appeals have since followed and the latest hearing, which Bibi's attorney attempted to have scheduled for June, was delayed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

The Christian mother's plight has drawn international attention and condemnation of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws by a variety of persecution watchdog and human rights groups.

Christian lawyer Naeem Shakir pointed out that Islamic hardliners are greatly invested in seeing her denied freedom.

"The plight of Bibi has had a dampening effect on minorities. Their grief cannot be addressed because of religious retrogressive and extremist groups," Shakir said.

Unless Bibi's death sentence is overturned, she is set to become the first woman in Pakistan to be executed under the blasphemy laws.

Previous recipients of the Sakharov Prize include Nadia Murad and Lamya Aji Bashar Taha, two young Yazidi women who were kidnapped by Islamic State extremists and forced to live as sex slaves.

Aji Bashar, who won the award alongside Murad in 2016, has spoken about IS' abuse of children as young as 9 years old, describing them as "monsters."

"I would really like to explain what happened to me there, not only for myself, but so others, the other women, are not treated like this, so that we Yazidis never have to go through anything like this again," the Yazidi woman said.

Murad, who has been traveling around the world to raise awareness for the genocide of Yazidis, stated, "I've seen thousands of refugees go through the same thing as myself and my family. We are scattered all over the place. I also know that Islamic State is still trying to exterminate us. I think about this and this is what gives me the strength, all the strength, to continue."

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov