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Husband of Asiya Bibi on death row for blasphemy begs for pardon

LAHORE: The husband of a Christian woman, Asiya Bibi sentenced to death for blasphemy four years ago has written to the president to ask for her to be pardoned and allowed to move to France.

Asiya Bibi has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) during an argument with a Muslim woman.

The Lahore high court confirmed the death sentence last month, dashing hopes it might be commuted to a jail term.

“We are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mamnoon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water,” husband Ashiq Masih wrote in an open letter dated November 17 and published by the New York Times.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has said the couple are welcomed in the city, and Masih quoted his wife as saying she sent her “deepest thanks to you Madame Mayor, and to all the kind people of Paris and across the world”.

Masih added his wife was not guilty of blasphemy.

The plea for being allowed to move to Paris comes days after the mayor of the city Anne Hidalgo requested President Hussain to grant her a pardon.

Senior opposition leader Bruno Retailleau Wednesday asked French President Francois Hollande to intervene in the case.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the majority Muslim country.

Masih, 50, lives in hiding with two of his five children and has to keep his identity secret as he scrapes together a living as a daily labourer.

He visits his wife once a month, making a five and a half hour journey to her jail in Multan.

The allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009, when she was labouring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women she was working with.

Amnesty International has raised “serious concerns” about the fairness of her trial and has called for her release.

Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy and has had a de-facto moratorium on civilian executions since 2008.

But anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes. -AFP

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