Asia Bibi leaves jail, flies out of Multan

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MULTAN : Asia Bibi, a Pakistani-Christian woman who spent eight years on death row but was acquitted by the Supreme Court last week in a blasphemy case against her, was freed from the prison here in the city, her lawyer said Wednesday night.

Bibi, a mother of five, is believed to have already flown out of the city of Multan where she was being held in a women’s prison, heading for an unknown destination, the lawyer added.

Allegations against Bibi, 53, dated back to June 2009 when she was labouring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women who had alleged that she committed blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010 despite her advocates maintaining her innocence and insisting the accusers held grudges against her.

Her release comes a week after her acquittal in a landmark case that triggered angry protests in the country and following appeals from her husband, Ashiq Masih, for Britain or the United States to grant the family asylum.

Saif-ul-Mulook, her lawyer, fled to the Netherlands on Saturday under threat to his life.

Bibi’s conviction was overturned by the country’s highest court on October 31 but she had remained in prison as the government negotiated with protesters from religious groups — led by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) — who blockaded major cities and demanded her immediate execution.

Riots broke out in major cities across the country in the wake of the ruling, with club-wielding protesters barricading roads and highways in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore. Enraged masses had blocked several routes across the country for two days, while at some places they had also set fire to vehicles.

The demonstrations saw the closure of schools, colleges, and universities, as well as the cancellation of examinations. In a statement, the TLP had termed Bibi’s release “against the government agreement”.

“The entire atmosphere of Pakistan is in pain and grief,” it had said.

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