Sunday, 18 August, 2019

Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan arrives in Canada, lawyer says

Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan for Canada after months of legal limbo Aasia Bibi leaves Pakistan, reaches Canada: lawyer
Patty Aguilar | 08 May, 2019, 17:01

Her lawyer, Saif-ul Malook said the mother of five is finally reunited with her daughters in Canada.

Her husband had also urged the U.S. president, and the United Kingdom and Canada premiers to help her leave the country for her life.

Officials at Pakistan's interior and foreign ministries also confirmed her departure, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media. The Supreme Court had on October 31 a year ago acquitted her of blasphemy charges.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted his pleasure at Bibi's departure.

Bibi's case brought global attention to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, which carries an automatic death penalty.

Supporters of Pakistani radical religious Tehreek-e-Labbaik party protest against a Christian woman Asia Bibi, in Lahore, Pakistan, October 19, 2018.

The mere suspicion of blasphemy against Islam is enough to ignite mob lynchings in the country.

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Bibi's case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help her were assassinated, including Punjab province governor Salman Taseer, who was shot by his own bodyguard. "They have been devastating for minorities, including Christians, who must always act with caution in case an allegation of blasphemy is raised to settle a personal score". The assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, has been celebrated as a martyr by hard-liners since he was hanged for the killing, with millions visiting a shrine set up for him near Islamabad.

Asia Bibi flew out of the country on Tuesday and is thought to be heading to start a new life in Canada, sources told The Telegraph.

He said she was longing to see her daughters, with whom she talked to nearly daily from her secure location, protected by Pakistani security forces.

Ms Bibi's release sparked rioting by hardline Islamists, who rejected the Supreme Court's verdict and warned Prime Minister Imran Khan's Government that she must not be allowed to leave the country. But although there is huge relief among campaigners for religious freedom that she is out of Pakistan, her ordeal may not be over.

Multiple Pakistani leaders who defended Bibi's case paid with their lives. The supreme court judgment said there was no evidence to support the charge.

The blasphemy laws were promulgated by former military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1980s.

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