Acquitted Christian woman wants to leave Pakistan for West

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — A Christian woman recently acquitted of blasphemy charges after eight years on death row in Pakistan wants to leave her homeland for any Western country willing to issue visas for her and her family, her lawyer said Tuesday.

Saiful Malook told reporters in Frankfurt that the failure of any country to offer to take them is why Aasia Bibi and her family haven’t already left Pakistan. In fact, several countries have offered Bibi asylum, including Canada, Spain and France.

“I hope the Western world is trying to help her,” Malook said. He added that talks are taking place with several countries, as well as the European Union, but he didn’t give any further details.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court judges on Oct. 21 acquitted the 54-year-old mother-of-five of blasphemy charges, but her case has inflamed radical Islamists, some of whom are calling for her death.

Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Labbaik party launched nationwide protests demanding Bibi’s public execution and the party’s founder, Mohammad Afzal Qadri, called for the death of the three Supreme Court judges who ruled to acquit her. Qadri also called for the overthrow of the Pakistan government. Protests ended after the government agreed to a Supreme Court review. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has gone on national television saying that the Supreme Court’s decision will be final and upheld.

Bibi’s ordeal dates back to 2009, when she went to fetch water for herself and fellow farmworkers. An argument took place after two Muslim women refused to drink from the same container as Bibi, who is Roman Catholic. The women later said Bibi had insulted the Prophet Muhammad, and she was charged with blasphemy. She was put on trial, convicted and sentenced to death in 2010.

Bibi and her family, who are currently at a guarded, secret location in Pakistan, don’t speak any foreign languages so it wouldn’t matter to them which Western country offered them refuge, Malook said.

The lawyer also left Pakistan after the Supreme Court’s acquittal. He said he’s also looking for somewhere to stay, and Germany would be one of his preferences because his late wife was German.

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