By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ISLAMABAD/STRASBOURG (BosNewsLife)-- The European Parliament (EP) on Thursday, November 26, urged Pakistan to withdraw blasphemy laws after a Christian mother of five lost her appeal against the death penalty.
"Asia Bibi has already spent four years on death row, though she is innocent," said Dutch legislator Peter van Dalen of the ChristenUnie (Christian Union) party in the EP. "She should be released," he told the EP Thursday, November 26, in remarks send to BosNewsLife.
He said Pakistan could either grant her a presidential pardon or speed up the process in front of the country's Supreme Court. "I expect Pakistan to take action. Free Asia Bibi now," Van Dalen added.
Bibi was detained in 2009 after she reportedly told Muslim co-workers that Jesus Christ is alive and that He "sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins." She reportedly made the remarks while working in the fields for a Muslim landowner.
BIBI DENIES WRONGDOING
Besides "insulting Prophet Muhammad" she was accused "of contaminating" the well by Muslims. Bibi has denied wrongdoing.
Van Dalen said her case underscored it was "rightly so" that the EP demanded the withdrawal of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy legislation.
"There are hundreds of Asia Bibi's," he added. Van Dalen said the blasphemy laws "put a blanket of fear over Pakistan society and are misused by extremists."
Van Dalen argued that the blasphemy measures are against human rights treaties Pakistan signed in exchange for trade deals with the European Union. "A country doesn't receive those benefits easily," he said.
"I therefore request the new European Commissioner for Trade [Cecilia] Malmstrőm to quickly launch an investigation into the obligations that belong to the [Generalised Scheme of Preferences] (GSP)," Van Dalen added.
The GSP allows developing country exporters, including Pakistan, to pay less or no duties on their exports to the EU. This gives them vital access to EU markets and contributes to their economic growth, said the European Commission.
However there should be "no trade benefits in case of religious persecution," stressed Van Dalen. Under Pakistani blasphemy laws, insulting the Koran or Prophet Muhammad can be punished with life imprisonment or death.
On December 4, the legislator will handover a petition with 40,000 signatures to Pakistan's EU ambassador, demanding Bibi's release, Van Dalen's office said.