Asia Bibi Blasphemy Case: Husband asks for asylum

Asia Bibi Blasphemy Case: Husband asks for asylum

Protesters demonstrate against Acadia Bibi's acquittal and hold a poster with a noose around his neck on November 2, 2018image rights
EPA

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Many called for the reintroduction of the death penalty following the acquittal of Asia Bibi

The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman, who was acquitted for blasphemy after an eight-year death sentence, has sought asylum from Britain, the US and Canada.

Asia Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih said they are in great danger in Pakistan.

The Supreme Court overturned the sentencing of Asia Bibi on Wednesday, saying that the case against them was based on weak evidence.

Their acquittal triggered violent protests and the government has now agreed to prevent them from leaving the country.

On Saturday, her lawyer Saif Mulook fled Pakistan and said he was worried about his life.

Asia Noreen – commonly known as Asia Bibi – was convicted in 2010 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a dispute with neighbors.

Several countries have offered their asylum.

What does her husband say?

In a video message, Mr. Masih said he was worried about the safety of his family.

"I ask the British Prime Minister to help us and give us as much freedom as possible," he said.

He also asked the leaders of Canada and the United States for help.

image rights
AFP

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Asia Bibi's husband and daughter say they fear for their safety

In an interview with the German broadcaster DW, he said earlier that he and his family had been "scared" after the Pakistani authorities reached an agreement with the Hardline party Tehreek-i-Labaik (TLP) to hold protests against Asia Bibis Acquittal.

As part of the agreement, officials will initiate proceedings to prevent them from leaving the country.

The government will not stop protesters from challenging the Supreme Court's decision to release them.

"The agreement sent a shiver down my spine," Masih told DW. "It is wrong to set a precedent by putting pressure on the judiciary."

"The current situation is very dangerous for us, we have no security and hide here and there and often change our location."

He added, "My wife, Asia Bibi, has already suffered a lot, she spent 10 years in jail, and my daughters absolutely wanted her to be free, but now this review will extend a petition."

British MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament, said he asked the Ministry of Interior for an "urgent assessment of the situation," the Guardian said.

Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudry told the BBC that security had been "increased" to protect Asia Bibi.

"Yes, there is a situation we are dealing with, but I assure you that your life is not in danger," he told the BBC's Newshour program.

He described the government's approach to demonstrators as a "fire brigade" and said it helped "resolve the situation without resorting to violence."

Who was accused of Asia Bibi?

The process goes back to an argument Asia Bibi had had with a women's group in June 2009.

They harvested fruit when a fight broke out over a bucket of water. The women said that because she used a cup, they could not touch her because her faith had made her unclean.

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media labelingAsia Bibi's escape from Pakistan on death row

The prosecution claimed that the women in the ensuing row said that Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and that she made insulting comments in response to the Prophet Muhammad.

She was later beaten up in her house while her prosecutors said she had blasphemy confessed. She was arrested after a police investigation.

In a ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said the case was based on unreliable evidence and their confession was delivered to a crowd that "threatened to kill them."

Why is this case so divided?

Islam is Pakistan's national religion and underpins its legal system. Public support for the stringent blasphemy laws is strong.

Hard-core politicians have often backed heavy sentences, in part to bolster their support base.

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Critics say, however, that the laws were often used to avenge personal arguments, and that beliefs are based on thin evidence.

The vast majority of those convicted are Muslims or members of the Ahmadi community, but many have been convicted since the 1990s. They make up only 1.6% of the population.

The Christian community has been hit by numerous attacks in recent years, and many feel vulnerable to a climate of intolerance.

Since 1990, at least 65 people have been killed for blasphemy in Pakistan.

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