Pakistani Christian woman Aasia Bibi 'freed' from jail

Aasia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy, has been freed, her lawyer has said.

    Aasia Bibi left a detention facility in Punjab province for the flight to the capital Islamabad, officials said [AP Photo]
    Aasia Bibi left a detention facility in Punjab province for the flight to the capital Islamabad, officials said [AP Photo]

    Pakistani Christian woman Aasia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row on charge of blasphemy, has been freed from jail, her lawyer said.

    "She has been freed. I've been told that she is on a plane but nobody knows where she will land," her lawyer Saif-ul-Malook said in a message to AFP news agency on Wednesday.

    Bibi, 53, was flown on Wednesday night to a facility in the capital, Islamabad, from an undisclosed location for security reasons, two senior government officials told the AP news agency.

    Last week, Pakistan's Supreme Court had overturned Bibi's conviction and ordered her release, but she remained imprisoned as the government agreed to allow a review following right-wing protests over the bitterly divisive case.

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

    Her husband Ashiq Masih had appealed the United Kingdom or the United States to grant the family asylum, while Malook fled to the Netherlands.

    Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman, meanwhile, confirmed that Bibi has not left Pakistan.

    "Let me tell you that Asiya Bibi is in Pakistan and is safe," Muhammad Faisal said in a statement on Thursday.

    "I cannot comment on the question pertaining to her lawyer. Regarding the question on review petition, I this is a technical and legal matter."

    Bibi's acquittal had triggered massive protests by right-wing parties, mainly the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), in the Muslim-majority nation.

    Thousands of people poured onto the streets after the court overturned Bibi's conviction last week, causing Prime Minister Imran Khan's government to sign a controversial deal with the TLP.

    The blasphemy charge against Bibi stemmed from an incident in 2009, when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields.

    Female Muslim 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 Muhammad, a charge she has consistently denied.

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

    At least 74 people have been killed in such violence since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

    SOURCE: News agencies