Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian Mother who has been held in solitary confinement since 2010 as she faced the death penalty following a false “blasphemy” allegation, has finally been released, her family and lawyer have confirmed. Asia Bibi’s conviction was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court on 31 October; but the verdict was met with violent protests in a number of cities throughout the country, and a government agreement to support a challenge to the Supreme Court judgment.
The radical group Tehreek-e-Labaik is bringing the review petition. It is also seeking to place Bibi on the country’s “Exit Control List”, which would block her from leaving Pakistan. Earlier today (Thursday) it was reported that she had left the country following her release but this has now been denied. The British-Pakistani Christian Association, which has been supporting her family and campaigning for her release, says that speculation about her current whereabouts could be dangerous.
“Asia Bibi has been set free from her long-term home under captivity at Multan Jail and we confirmed this with media after news from her family”, BPCA’s Chairman, Wilson Chowdhry, said. “BPCA will not be confirming any more details to media groups until given the express permission of the family.”
In a statement, the group said that Chowdhry had spoken to Bibi’s family early this morning, “and they expressed that is of the utmost importance that there be no further speculation on her whereabouts reported by either concerned groups or international media”.
They added: “Asia Bibi, her family and guardians all still face a real and present danger of being killed.”
The group said that “news reports continue to abound claiming that she will be going to one country or another, has left for parts unknown and even commenting on where she may be going and what her supposed travel itinerary is; which hardly seems advisable given the heightened concern for her safety and clear petition to put her on the exit list. The fact is that anything could happen.”
Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, has faced death threats and has left the country. He is currently in the Netherlands where he is seeking asylum. He confirmed Bibi’s release earlier today. He reportedly said that Bibi had left Pakistan. But the country’s foreign ministry said later that she is still in Pakistan. The country’s information minister, Fawad Hussein, said that the case was “highly sensitive” and criticised journalists, saying that they had been “extremely irresponsible” for reporting the news without official confirmation.
Extremists continue to protest the acquittal and some have threatened to assassinate the Supreme Court judges who made the decision to acquit Bibi. Tehreek-e-Labaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi told the Reuters news agency that the decision to release her today was a breach of the government’s agreement that stopped the protests.