Woman acquitted of blasphemy freed
A PAKISTANI Christian woman has been freed from prison a week after the Supreme Court overturned her conviction and death sentence for blasphemy against Islam, and she is at a secure location in the country, officials said yesterday.
Officials dismissed some media reports that the woman, Asia Bibi, had been flown abroad, which would enrage hardline Islamists who have been protesting against her release and calling for her to be banned from leaving.
The overnight release of the mother of five prompted anger from an Islamist party that has threatened to paralyse the country with street protests if her acquittal is not reversed.
Bibi, 53, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 over allegations she made derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. She always denied having committed blasphemy.
The case has outraged Christians worldwide, and Pope Francis met Bibi’s family this year, saying he prayed for her. Italy said on Tuesday it would try to help Bibi, who is Catholic, to leave Pakistan.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied reports that Bibi had left the country and pointed out that a review of the Supreme Court decision to free her was pending.
“Asia Bibi is completely secure at a safe place in Pakistan,” said ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal.
Meanwhile, the Dutch government said yesterday it had offered temporary shelter to Bibi’s lawyer after he was forced to flee for his life. Saiful Mulook was offered the chance to stay in the Netherlands for several months, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs ministry said.
Insulting the Prophet Mohammad carries a death penalty in Pakistan, which has among the harshest blasphemy laws in the world. |
Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook, addresses a news conference at the International Press Centre in The Hague, Netherlands. | ANA