Defense lawyer in Pakistan blasphemy case flees country
Judges acquitted his client; Islamists still want her dead
The lawyer for a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges after spending 8 years on death row in Pakistan has fled the country, fearing for his safety, her brother said.
Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, left Pakistan leaving no further details.
Pakistan’s top court acquitted Bibi on Wednesday and ordered her release in a move that infuriated the country’s hard-line Islamists, who have held nationwide protests demanding her execution.
The government reached a deal with the Islamists overnight in which it agreed to impose a travel ban on Bibi while the case is reviewed. In return, Islamists agreed to stop protests which blocked roads and brought life to a standstill some areas.
Malook told The Associated Press earlier this week that he would have to leave Pakistan because the followers of hard-line cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi had threatened to kill him and the judges.
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that Malook passed through Rome en route to Amsterdam where he would speak at a conference next week before relocating to London.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan.mere rumors cause lynchings. Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was 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 hard-liners as a martyr, with millions visiting a shrine for him near Islamabad. Malook served as 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.
Human rights groups say the blasphemy law is 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 decisions, but reviews like Bibi’s typically take years. Bibi’s family had expected her release Thursday. Her husband and children were to take her out of Pakistan. France and Spain offered asylum.
Saiful Malook, lawyer for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman on death row since 2010 due to blasphemy charges, leaves Supreme court with a bodyguard in Islamabad.