Pakistan Blasphemy Case: Acquitted Asia Bibi Freed From Jail

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According to BBC radio, Asia Bibi has boarded a plane with her family but its destination was not known. Pakistan Foreign Office, however, dismissed reports that she  has left the country.

ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row has been freed from prison and is believed to have  flown out of Pakistan, her lawyer said late on Wednesday.

According to BBC radio, Asia Bibi has boarded a plane with her family but its destination was not known.

Pakistan Foreign Office, however on Thursday dismissed reports that she  has left the country.

“Asia Bibi is in Pakistan. There is no truth in reports about Asia Bibi leaving the country,” Geo News quoted a Foreign Office spokesman as saying.

Asia Bibi, a mother-of-five, was released from prison in the city of Multan, her lawyer Saif Mulook said.

The Supreme Court ruling sparked protests from Islamists and the government had said it would bar her from leaving Pakistan.

Asia’s conviction was overturned by the apex court on October 31, but she remained in prison as the government negotiated with protestors who blockaded major cities and demanded her immediate execution. She was in women’s prison in Multan.

Also known as Asia Noreen, she was convicted in 2010 of insulting the holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) during a row with neighbours.

Several countries have offered her asylum.

The Pakistani government has said it will start legal proceedings to prevent her going abroad after agreeing the measure to end the violent protests.

Many of the protesters were hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws and called for Asia Bibi to be hanged.

One Islamist leader said all three Supreme Court judges also “deserved to be killed”.

A spokesman for the hardline Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party said Asia Bibi’s release was in breach of their deal with the government.

“The rulers have showed their dishonesty,” TLP spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said.

The deal also saw officials agree not to block a petition for the Supreme Court to evaluate Asia Bibi’s acquittal in the light of Islamic Sharia law.

The trial stems from an argument Asia Bibi had with a group of women in June 2009.

Foreign news outlets, citing her lawyer Saif-ul-Muluk, have said: “She has been freed. And is on a plane but nobody knows where she will land.”

It is learnt that, soon after her freedom from Multan prison,  a small plane arrived in the city with “a few foreigners and some Pakistanis” on board to fetch Bibi.

Asia’s husband Ashiq Masih has already appealed to Britain and the United States to grant the family asylum, while her lawyer has fled to the Netherlands.

Several governments including those if Italy and France have offered to help Asia Bibi, it is reported. — Agencies

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