Woman ac­quit­ted of blas­phemy freed

The Star Late Edition - - WORLD - Reuters

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. |

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