Thursday, November 8, 2018

Acquitted of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christian Reportedly Finding Refuge in Europe

Steven Emerson, Executive Director
November 8, 2018

Acquitted of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christian Reportedly Finding Refuge in Europe

by Abigail R. Esman  •  Nov 8, 2018 at 12:54 pm
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When Asia Bibi's conviction for blasphemy was overturned last month, thousands of extremists stormed the streets of Pakistan. Blasphemy is a capital crime in that country, and the protesters wanted her dead.
Now Bibi has reportedly been released, and the extremists are rioting again.
Bibi, a Christian, was accused of blasphemy in 2009 after allegedly arguing with a group of Muslim women who claimed that she made derogatory remarks about their religion and their god – charges Bibi denied from the beginning. According to Deutsche Welle, such accusations are often used as vengeance in handling petty disputes. She was sentenced to death a year later.
The Washington Post reports Bibi's release has been confirmed by Pakistani officials. It is not clear where Bibi is at the moment. But Pir Afzal Qadri, a leader of the protesting group, claimed in a video that the government assured him "that she is in the custody of law enforcement agencies . . . and has not been flown out of the country,".
Foreign media speculation, however, has her en route to Europe – and probably to the Netherlands, where, according to CNN, she has already filed for asylum. Her lawyer, Saif ul-Malook, fled to Holland earlier this week after also receiving death threats in Pakistan in the wake of Bibi's acquittal.
On Thursday, the Dutch government offered Malook the right to remain in the country for three months through a temporary refuge program that aids human rights workers who are in danger in their homeland. He has not applied for asylum, but it is believed that he will accept the offer to remain in the Netherlands for the time being.
However, Malook has not said whether Bibi is joining him in Holland, though he did suggest at a press conference earlier this week that she may be coming to the West sometime soon. He also noted that her husband had written to British Prime Minister Theresa May to request asylum in the UK. While May has yet to respond, both Belgium and the Netherlands have indicated that they would welcome her arrival and assure her refuge.
So far, Dutch officials have refused to confirm or deny the rumors. But what is sure is that, as Islamist radicals threaten further violence in Pakistan, Asia Bibi is free.
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