Published: Thu, May 09, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Persecuted Christian Asia Bibi Arrives in Canada After Leaving Pakistan

Persecuted Christian Asia Bibi Arrives in Canada After Leaving Pakistan

After more than six months in protective custody from radical Muslims following the overturning of her death sentence for "blasphemy" against Muhammad, Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has fled to Canada, according to her lawyer.

Her release in October 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.

Asia Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.

Islamic extremists have rioted over the case and threatened to kill her.

In a historic judgement in October past year, the Supreme Court had set aside Aasia Bibi's conviction in the blasphemy case registered against her in 2010. "This important step follows the decision of Pakistan's Supreme Court to acquit her of blasphemy charges in October 2018 - a decision that was subsequently upheld in January 2019", Pompeo said.

Ashiq Mesih, right, and Eisham Ashiq, the husband and daughter of Asia Bibi.

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It was not clear when Bibi may have left or where she may have gone. Bibi was charged with blasphemy a crime that is punishable by death. "Now she finally travels to Canada to be reunited with her children".

Bibi's counsel Saiful Malook confirmed that she has reached Canada, the Guardian reported.

No details have been revealed on Bibi's immediate whereabouts in Canada or where the family might establish a new home.

The case attracted global attention and led to the killing in 2011 of then-Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who sought to reform the blasphemy laws. Millions visit a shrine dedicated to him in Islamabad every year. Pakistan's minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated later that year after demanding justice for Bibi.

In November, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country was in talks with Pakistan about helping Bibi, whose family are believed to be outside Pakistan. He said she longed to see her daughters, with whom she spoke daily from her secure location, protected by Pakistani security forces. The judges accused those who accused Bibi with blasphemy of committing perjury, but said they would not be tried because of the sensitivity of the case.

Christians - who make up around two percent of the population - occupy one of the lowest rungs in class-obsessed Pakistani society, largely living in slums and working menial jobs as street sweepers, cleaners and cooks. No executions for blasphemy have been carried out in Pakistan but enraged mobs sometimes kill people accused of blasphemy.

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