ISLAMABAD (AP) – A Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan has left for Canada to be reunited with her daughters, Pakistani media and a friend close to her said Wednesday.
Wilson Chawdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association told The Associated Press Wednesday that he received a text message from a British diplomat saying “Aasia is out.” A close friend of Bibi also confirmed that she had left the country, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2009 after a quarrel with a fellow farmworker. She spent eight years on death row until the Supreme Court last year overturned her conviction. She has since been in protective custody.
Islamic extremists have rioted over the case and threatened to kill her. The same radical Islamists, many of whom have been jailed for their threats, also urged the overthrow of the government following Bibi’s acquittal.
The case has brought international attention to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which carries an automatic death penalty. The mere suspicion of blasphemy against Islam is enough to ignite mob lynchings in the country.
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. He said she was longing to see her daughters, with whom she talked to almost daily from her secure location, protected by Pakistani security forces.
Chawdhry said he had been in regular contact with Bibi’s husband throughout the ordeal as well as with several diplomats as part of an international effort to have her freed.