Asia Bibi, Christian Cleared of Blasphemy Charges, Leaves Pakistan for Canada

Asia Bibi, Christian Cleared of Blasphemy Charges, Leaves Pakistan for Canada

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row after being found guilty of blasphemy — a conviction that was later overturned — has arrived in Canada, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

The woman, Asia Bibi, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 after being accused, based on little evidence, of speaking against the Prophet Muhammad during a heated argument with Muslim women. She insisted she had not done so and that she was the victim of false accusations prompted by bigotry.

Ms. Bibi was cleared of the charges last year and released from prison under government protection. That led to violent protests by hard-line Islamists calling for her execution, which paralyzed large parts of the country.

Her family appealed for asylum, saying that Ms. Bibi was in grave danger. Her lawyer briefly left Pakistan, citing threats to his life.

Asia Bibi in 2010, at a prison in the city of Sheikhupura, near Lahore.CreditAssociated Press

The lawyer, Saiful Malook, confirmed that Ms. Bibi had left Pakistan for Canada on Tuesday. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

The Canadian Embassy in Islamabad referred questions about Ms. Bibi to Global Affairs Canada, the nation’s foreign ministry. Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to an email.

The original verdict convicting Ms. Bibi drew worldwide condemnation and calls for overturning Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which rights groups say has essentially been used by extremists as a bludgeon against religious minorities.

Omar Waraich, the deputy South Asia director at Amnesty International, welcomed the news that Ms. Bibi had left Pakistan.

“She should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone endure the constant threats to her life,” he said. “This case horrifyingly illustrates the dangers of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and the urgent need to repeal them.”

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