De­fense lawyer in blas­phemy case flees Pak­istan

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Obituaries -

Blas­phemy against Is­lam is pun­ish­able by death in Pak­istan, and the mere ru­mor has caused lynch­ings. Is­lamists have made the blas­phemy law a cen­tral ral­ly­ing cry.

Sal­man Taseer, the gov­er­nor of Pun­jab prov­ince, was shot and killed by one of his guards in 2011 for de­fend­ing Bibi and crit­i­ciz­ing the mis­use of the law. The as­sas­sin, Mum­taz Qadri, was hanged for the crime, but later was hailed by re­li­gious hard-lin­ers as a mar­tyr, with mil­lions vis­it­ing a shrine set up for him near Is­lam­abad. Malook had served as the pros­e­cu­tor in Qadri’s trial.

Bibi was ar­rested in 2009 on al­le­ga­tions that she in­sulted Is­lam’s Prophet Muham­mad dur­ing an al­ter­ca­tion with other farm­work­ers. Her fam­ily and lawyers deny she ever in­sulted Is­lam.

Rights groups have called for Bibi’s re­lease and crit­i­cized the blas­phemy law, say­ing it has been used to set­tle scores or abuse re­li­gious mi­nori­ties. The court up­held the blas­phemy law, but said there was not enough ev­i­dence to con­vict Bibi.

Pak­istan’s Supreme Court has not been known to re­verse its de­ci­sions, but court re­views typ­i­cally take years.

Bibi’s fam­ily had ex­pected her re­lease by Thurs­day night. Her hus­band, Ashiq Masih, re­turned from Britain with their chil­dren in mi­dOc­to­ber and was wait­ing for her re­lease so that they could fly out of Pak­istan.

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