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Pakistan blasphemy case: Asia Bibi released from jail, to be shifted to the Netherlands

Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours.

SNS | New Delhi |

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy and acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court last week, has been released from a jail in Multan and taken to Noor Khan Airbase, Rawalpindi. It is expected that she would be shifted to the Netherlands, local media reported.

However, a Punjab government spokesperson refused to comment on the matter.

A Lahore-based TV news channel reported that Asia Bibi was released from New Jail for Women in Multan (around 350km from Lahore) late on Wednesday night and taken to Noor Khan Airbase, Rawalpindi, from where a chartered plane would take her to the Netherlands.

Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

Read | Pakistan blasphemy case: Asia Bibi’s husband pleads for asylum

Earlier, Italy had said that it was working to help Asia Bibi leave Pakistan, amid warning from the woman’s husband that her life was in danger. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, had also urged US President Donald Trump, and the UK and Canada premiers to help her leave Pakistan.

Several countries have so far 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.

They were harvesting fruit when a row broke out about a bucket of water. The women said that because she had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean.

Read | ‘Need to stay alive’: Asia Bibi’s lawyer leaves Pakistan citing threat to life

Prosecutors alleged that in the row which followed, the women said Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and that she made offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad in response.

She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.

Acquitting her, the Supreme Court said that the case was based on unreliable evidence and her confession was delivered in front of a crowd “threatening to kill her”.

 

(With inputs from agencies)