Pakistani Christian woman on death row for blasphemy nominated for Sakharov Prize

A Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death in 2010 because of the country's blasphemy law has been nominated by the Members of the European Parliament for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought this year.

(REUTERS / Asad Karim / Files)File photo of a police official taking the thumb print of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, on an affidavit stating her innocence after she was visited by the Governor of the former Punjab Province Salman Taseer (R).

During a joint meeting of the foreign affairs, development, and human rights committees held in Strasbourg on Oct. 2, Polish MEP Anna Fotyga commended the behavior of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi while in prison. Bibi is among the six nominees for this year's Sakharov Prize, which is given to individuals and organizations that defend human rights and freedoms, Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty detailed.

According to Fotyga, Bibi's "behavior in prison, the dignity she has shown during all these years is the best proof of her being able to represent the dignity of a defender of human rights in the face of the worst fate."

Bibi was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging almost seven years ago after being charged with blasphemy over an argument she had with a Muslim woman. Her supporters say she is innocent and that the blasphemy law is just being used against her to settle a personal dispute.

Aside from Bibi, the other nominees for the Sakharov Prize are Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, Selahattin Demirtas, Figen Yuksekdag, Dawit Isaak, and Pierre Claver Mbonimpa.

The European Parliament's foreign affairs and development committees are set to vote on three finalists on Oct. 10 and the awardee will be announced on Oct. 26. The awarding of the Sakharov Prize will be held at the parliament in Strasbourg this December.

Malala Yousafzai, a 19-year-old Pakistani girl, was also a recipient of the prestigious Sakharov Prize, among many other human rights awards. She has also been named as the UN Messenger of Peace and had received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, Deutsche Welle reported.

Yousafzai was shot by Taliban militants in October 2012 for allegedly promoting "secularism" in Pakistan. She received treatment for her injuries in Pakistan and in the U.K., where she now lives with her family. The young activist gained international praise for campaigning for girls' right to education in her hometown and for writing about the abuses of the Taliban.