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Persecuted Asia Bibi nominated for prestigious EU award

Wed 04 Oct 2017
By Marcus Jones

A Pakistani Christian mother who fell victim to her country's strict blasphemy laws has been nominated for a top award by the European Union.

Asia Bibi, who's spent the past eight years in prison in Pakistan, has been put forward as a potential winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The award honours individuals and groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought.

It's named after Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

Among this year's nominees are: Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, a Guatemalan human rights campaigner; Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, co-presidents of the Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey; groups and individuals representing the democratic opposition in Venezuela; Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean playwright, arrested in 2001 by the Eritrean authorities and Pierre Claver Mbonospa, a Burundian human rights activist.

Welcoming the nomination, Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association said: "Asia Bibi's nomination reminds us that heroes come in all shapes and sizes and that even just the simplest thing such as standing up for your rights and not being cowed by oppressors, can have a lasting impact on others.

"Asia Bibi has not spoken a profound lecture at a UN Meeting, she has not raised funds to support victims of other atrocities, she has not even challenged the existing laws in Pakistan that target minorities nor has she been a particularly public figure. However in simply refusing to give up her faith despite the death sentence imposed upon her and the millions of Muslims calling for her death, she has shown how even the frailest of us can make a difference."

Asia Bibi is currently appealing her death sentence for blasphemy. She's been accused of insulting the prophet Mohammed - something she denies.

Christians often fall foul of Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Anyone found to have insulted Islam can be sentenced to death.

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