By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, who is facing execution for alleged blasphemy, has sent a message of heartfelt thanks to the mayor of Paris for the city’s support in her case.
Mother-of-five Asia Bibi was accused of insulting the Muslim faith in 2009 following an argument with fellow villagers who were angry that she had drunk from a communal well.
A story by FRANCE 24 said she has always denied the charges, but was sentenced to death in 2010 and has been in custody ever since.
Last weekend Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called on Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain to grant Asia Bibi a presidential pardon.
“I asked him in my own name, and in the name of the city of Paris and all Parisians,” FRANCE 24 said she wrote. “Paris, the capital of human rights, is prepared to welcome her and her family to stay here permanently if they so wish.”
On Monday, in an oral message relayed through her husband and translated by FRANCE 24’s Pakistan correspondent Anne-Isabelle Tollet, Bibi told Le Figaro that “in my little windowless cell, where day and night are one and the same, the fact that I can have hope is thanks to you”.
“I want to thank the mayor and everyone in Paris,” she said. “You are my only chance of not dying in this dungeon. Please don’t let me meet this fate. I did not blaspheme.”
Bibi’s death sentence was upheld by the high court in Lahore in October.
“After four long years of waiting in extremely difficult circumstances, we had hoped that the High Court in Lahore would free my wife,” FRANCE 24 said her husband Ashiq Masih told Le Figaro. “She did not blaspheme. She has never blasphemed. We don’t understand why the Pakistan that we love is punishing us like this.”
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan, which has strict but ambiguous laws that are difficult to argue against in court. Lynchings for alleged blasphemy are not uncommon.
At the beginning of November, FRANCE 24 reported, a Christian bonded laborer and his pregnant wife were accused of desecrating the Koran after a garbage collector told locals he had found torn pages from the Muslim holy book amid the couple’s trash.
Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi, who was four months pregnant, were later beaten, surrounded by a crowd of up to 1,500 villagers. They were then thrown on top of a lit furnace at the brick factory where they worked.
The incident sparked protests by Christians and outrage among rights activists. Police arrested 44 suspects in the days following the killings.