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ISLAMABAD: The husband of Asia Bibi – a Christian woman acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan after being on death row for eight years in a blasphemy case – appealed on Sunday to US President Donald Trump for refuge, citing danger to family members’ lives.
The Supreme Court on October 31 ordered Bibi’s immediate release stating that blasphemy charges could not be proven against her. The judgement triggered countrywide protests by religious parties, bringing the country to a standstill for three days before the government reached a deal with the demonstrators on Friday.
“I am requesting the President of the United States Donald Trump to help us exit from Pakistan,” Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, said in a video recorded by the British Pakistani Christian Association and seen by Reuters.
“I also request the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to help us, I also request the Prime Minister of Canada,” he said, while also asking for help on behalf of his brother Jospeh Nadeem who has assisted with Bibi’s case.
The US, British and Canadian High Commissions in Islamabad are yet to respond to a comment on the video.
Following the apex court’s decision, religious parties staged protests in major cities across the country and incited violence against Bibi’s lawyer as well as the judges. The Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) only called off the protests late on Friday after the government reached a deal to initiate legal proceedings to put Asia Bibi on the Exit Control List and said it would not object to a review appeal against the verdict, which was filed earlier in the Supreme Court.
On Saturday, Bibi’s lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook, left the country owing to threats to his life.
Ahead of boarding a plane to Europe, Mulook spoke to AFP and said, “In the current scenario, it is not possible for me to live in Pakistan.”
“I need to stay alive as I still have to fight the legal battle for Asia Bibi,” he said.
When asked about the protests following the decision, Mulook said it was “unfortunate but not unexpected”.
Regarding the agreement between the government and the protesters, Mulook said, “What’s painful is the response of the government. They cannot even implement an order of the country’s highest court.”
He added that “the struggle for justice must continue”.
“Her life would be more or less the same, either inside a prison or in solitary confinement for security fears” until a decision on the appeal, he further said.
The allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009, when she was labouring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women who alleged that she committed blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010, despite her advocates maintaining her innocence and insisting the accusers held grudges against her.