Death row Christian woman has left Pakistan, lawyer says

Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan for Canada after months of legal limbo

Ottawa: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined Wednesday to confirm whether Asia Bibi, the Christian woman at the center of a decade-long blasphemy row in Pakistan, has arrived in Canada. "She should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone endured the constant threats to her life".

After the Supreme Court ordered her release, activists of a hard-line Sunni group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, paralysed Pakistan for three days with protests.

This verdict came on an appeal filed by the woman challenging her capital punishment.

Judges were dismissive of the case against Bibi in the petition to have her case retried, saying the crime had not been established and listing inconsistencies in witness testimonies.

Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman who was acquitted in a blasphemy case, has left Pakistan, DawnNewsTV reported quoting sources from Foreign Office.

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Pakistan's foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Previously in November past year, rumours were circulating that Asia Bibi had left Multan's women jail and was being flown to an "unknown destination".

The friend, who last spoke to her on Tuesday, said Bibi and her husband Ashiq Masih had spent the last several weeks getting their documents in order. Rights groups say the blasphemy law is exploited by hardliners as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

It was not clear when Bibi may have left or where she may have gone, though British Prime Minister Theresa May appeared to confirm that Canada was her destination while speaking on the floor of the House of Commons.

Bibi's case brought worldwide attention to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, which carries an automatic death penalty.

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Bibi's counsel Saiful Malook confirmed that she has reached Canada, the Guardian reported. "In many cases, blasphemy allegations end up in a mob lynching or targeted killing of the accused before they can be tried or heard in a court of law".

He said she was longing to see her daughters, with whom she talked to nearly daily from her secure location, protected by Pakistani security forces.

Pakistan's minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also assassinated in 2011 after demanding justice for Bibi. She was accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death.

The British Pakistani Christian Association too said in a statement that they had "received confirmation from a British diplomat that Aasia Bibi had safely exited Pakistan".

In Pakistan Christians are the the second-largest minority, after Hindus, numbering about 1.3 million in a country of over 204 million people. Two Pakistani politicians were later killed for publicly supporting her and criticising the country's draconian blasphemy laws.

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