ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The Pakistani lawyer, who helped a Christian raise her death penalty for blasphemy, said on Saturday that he had left the country for fear of his life, after acquitting himself this week before, causing Islamist protests.
FILE PHOTO – Saiful Mulook (L), the lawyer for a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, leaves after the court overturned the conviction in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 31, 2018. REUTERS / Faisal Mahmood
Leaders of the ultra-Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) blocked the main roads in Pakistan's largest cities for three days, demanding the murder of Supreme Court judges who had acquitted Asia Bibi on Wednesday, and urged their cooks and servants to join them kill.
Saiful Mulook had been inconspicuous in the years he was advocating Bibi, a five-year-old mother who had been on death row since 2010 because of the extremely sensitive nature of the case. Two politicians who tried to help her were murdered.
Mulook said to Reuters in a WhatsApp message that he had gone abroad "to save my life from the angry mob" and out of fear for the safety of his family.
"I've consulted and everyone agrees (which I should leave)," he said, adding that he would return to the country to continue his work on the case if he was protected by security forces.
The TLP broke off the protests late Friday after it reached an agreement with the government that the authorities would put Bibi on an "exit checklist" to prevent them from leaving the country.
The whereabouts of Bibi are unknown, but Islamists have warned the authorities not to take them out of the country.
"There will be war if they send Asia out of the country," said TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi after the deal was concluded.
At the beginning of the week, one of Rizvi's deputies demanded that Pakistan's Supreme Judge Saqib Nisar and two other judges who had decided the case be murdered.
"Whoever has access to them, kill them before the evening," TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri told the followers.
The TLP was formed by a movement that supported a bodyguard who assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer after speaking in defense of Bibi in 2011. The Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also killed when he was called for release.
Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 for allegedly derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors refused to drink their drinking water because she was not a Muslim. She has always denied blasphemy.
The case has outraged Christians around the world and has been a source of division within Pakistan, where Islamist parties such as the TLP have embodied the release of Bibi as Pakistani government, while the Pakistani government is yielding to Western demands.
The acquittal of Bibi is under review, although it is extremely rare for a judgment to overturn a Supreme Court ruling.
Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Helen Popper