Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan: 'God has set her free'

She was accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death. Rights groups had long insisted there were numerous fair trial concerns in her case, as well as in blasphemy prosecutions generally.

She has been separated from her family and living in safe houses since the 2018 overturning of the sentence. Pakistani Muslims clamoring for her death have required her family to live in secrecy and Bibi will live under a false identity for protection.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has decried the "abuse" of blasphemy laws in the country, noting in their annual report released last month that 70 people suspected of insulting Islam have been lynched as a result of the laws. Bibi was charged with blasphemy despite repeatedly denying the accusation. "Several accused under the blasphemy laws have been attacked, even killed, by vigilantes, including while in police custody; those who escape official punishment or vigilante attack are forced to flee the country", explains the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

For more than four years, our team fought for Asia Bibi's freedom, engaging in a multi-pronged legal advocacy campaign across the globe. We've worked through our office on the ground in Pakistan.

Asia Bibi was first arrested a decade ago, an arrest that probably saved her from being lynched. When she went to fetch water from a nearby well, her Muslim coworkers said that they didn't want to drink from something that had been touched by a Christian. However, there was widespread misinformation that she was freed and 'would depart the country on a chartered plane to the Netherland'. After an eight-year ordeal, Pakistan's Supreme Court acquitted her of all charges and released her in October last year. Unfortunately, that was not where her plight ended. Although the decision was made through Pakistan's Apex Court, Asia was forced to remain in the country to address an appeal to the Supreme Court decision, submitted by extremist group Tehreek-e-lebaaik.

In 2011, Salman Taseer, who was then the governor of Punjab province, was assassinated by a bodyguard in Islamabad for expressing support for Bibi.

Asia Bibi who was imprisoned in June 2009 and condemned to death the following year, was declared innocent and ordered free on October 31. Angry that she had been acquitted, Pakistani Muslim radicals blocked off streets in Pakistan and called for Bibi's execution as well as for the murder of the Supreme Court justices who approved her release.

Today her nightmare is over.

"She left the country yesterday and safely reached her destination, Canada, according to my information", he said.

The lawyer for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian acquitted of capital blasphemy charges previous year, said on Wednesday that she had left the country and landed in Canada at least 12 hours ago, ending a ten-year long saga that has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan.

This is why we fight.

"Thanks to the Canadian authorities for welcoming her and giving her the opportunity to start a new life".

  • Leroy Wright


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