Asia Bibi, freed from jail, remains in govt. protection

Christian woman, cleared of blasphemy, faces threats

A Pakistani Christian woman who was cleared last week of blasphemy charges after spending eight years on death row has been released from prison but remains under government protection in Islamabad because of threats to her life, officials said on Thursday.

The woman, Asia Bibi, was released from a prison in central Pakistan and flown to the capital Islamabad late on Wednesday, a senior government official said on Thursday on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.

One official, however, denied news reports that Ms. Bibi had already been flown out of Pakistan. “She is in Pakistan,” said Mohammad Faisal, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

Ms. Bibi’s family has appealed for asylum, saying she is in grave danger as hard-line Islamists call for her execution. Her lawyer, Saiful Malook, has already left Pakistan.

The Supreme Court acquitted Ms. Bibi on October 31 in an exceptionally rare ruling against a blasphemy verdict. The three-member bench concluded that there was little evidence that Ms. Bibi, a farmworker and mother of three, had spoken against the Prophet Muhammed during a heated argument with Muslim women in 2009.

She was sentenced to death in 2010, a verdict that drew worldwide condemnation and focussed attention on Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which critics say has been used to persecute religious minorities.

The Supreme Court’s ruling last week clearing Ms. Bibi set off violent protests across the country that were spearheaded by Khadim Hussian Rizvi, a fiery religious cleric.

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