Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi freed from jail, says lawyer

Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy, has been freed from jail, her lawyer said Thursday.

The country’s highest court last week overturned Bibi’s conviction and ordered her release, but she had remained incarcerated as the government agreed to allow a review following Islamist protests over the bitterly divisive case.

“She has been freed. I have been told that she is on a plane but nobody knows where she will land,” lawyer Saif-ul-Malook said in a message sent to AFP.

A release order arrived Wednesday at the prison in the central city of Multan, where Bibi was detained, a prison official told AFP.

Her husband Ashiq Masih has appealed for Britain or the United States to grant the family asylum, while Malook has fled to the Netherlands.

Bibi’s case has underscored divisions between traditionalists and modernisers in the devoutly Muslim nation.

It stems from an incident in 2009 when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields.

Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim, she should not touch the water bowl, and reportedly a fight erupted.

A local imam then claimed Bibi insulted the Prophet Mohammed — a charge she denies.

Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unsubstantiated allegations of insulting Islam can result in death at the hands of mobs.

Thousands of Islamists poured onto the streets in protest after Supreme Court judges overturned Bibi’s conviction last Wednesday, causing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration to sign a controversial deal.

(AFP)
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