Pak woman facing death for blasphemy to seek asylum

Asia Bibi was sentenced in November 2010 to death by hanging after a conviction for blasphemy.

Madrid: The family of a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death under the country`s controversial blasphemy law told EFE they plan to ask Spain to offer Asia Bibi asylum and to pressure Islamabad to allow her and her kin to leave.

Bibi`s husband, Asiq Mashi, is in Madrid with the couple`s 19-year-old daughter, Sidra, to accept an award on Asia`s behalf.

"Through international pressure, (Bibi) can be liberated," Mashi said, while adding that his wife would no longer be safe in Pakistan even if she leaves jail.

Bibi`s plight has inspired a global campaign and figures such as Pope Benedict XVI have urged Pakistan`s government to pardon the 47-year-old mother of five.

People inside Pakistan have also spoken up for Bibi, including a provincial governor and a Christian government minister who were assassinated by radical Islamists for their stand against the blasphemy law.

"We are here to present a request to the people and government of Spain to exercise pressure on the government of Pakistan," Mashi said in Madrid.

Bibi`s husband is to meet Spanish Deputy Foreign Minister Gonzalo de Benito.

Asia Bibi was sentenced in November 2010 to death by hanging after a conviction for blasphemy based on accusations by Muslim neighbours that she had contaminated their drinking water by touching the vessel with her "impure" Christian hands.

The sentence remains on appeal and no date has been set for her execution.

Asked about the conditions of his wife`s imprisonment, Mashi said authorities "see themselves obliged" to treat her well because of the international attention the case has drawn.