Asia Bibi: Husband pleads for family asylum in UK after blasphemy conviction overturned

'I am requesting the prime minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom,' Ashiq

Harriet Agerholm,Peter Stubley
Sunday 04 November 2018 03:16
Protests across Pakistan after acquittal of Asia Bibi blasphemy trial

The husband of a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan has asked Theresa May to grant his wife and family asylum in the UK.

The decision to overturn Asia Bibi's conviction of insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday has been met with violent widespread protests where demonstrators called for her death.

Pakistan's Supreme Court upheld the law but said there was not enough evidence to convict Ms Bibi.

Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, has now called for the UK to grant the mother and their family refuge amid fears for their safety.

“I am requesting the prime minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom,” he says in a video, in which he also calls for help from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump.

Normally a request fro asylum in the UK would need ro be made after fleeing Pakistan. However, Pakistan's government has reached a deal with Islamists to restrict Ms Bibi's travel while the case is reviewed.

Under the terms of the deal made on Friday night, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration said it would begin legal proceedings to place Asia Bibi on the “exit control list” (ECL).

It also agreed not to oppose a petition for a review of the Supreme Court decision to free the mother-of-five, who had been on death row since 2010.

In return the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party (TLP) issued an apology for any hurt caused during three days of nationwide protests and called for its supporters to disperse.

Ms May has previously called for the death penalty to be abolished globally when asked about Ms Bibi's case.

Ms Bibi was arrested in 2009, accused of insulting Islam's prophet during an argument with fellow farm workers and sentenced to death for blasphemy. Her lawyers have denied she ever insulted Islam, with one having reportedly fled Pakistan in fear of his life.

“I need to stay alive as I still have to fight the legal battle for Asia Bibi,” the lawyer, Saif Mulook, said.

It has been requested that the footage of her husband's message is not made public for fear of reprisals.

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Nasir Saeed, the director of CLAAS UK - a charity that supports persecuted Christians in Pakistan, called for Ms May to intervene quickly.

“The lives of Asia Bibi and her family are in danger as long as she remains in Pakistan, as the protests following the verdict have shown,” he added.

“We ask that Mrs May takes swift action to help secure the safe exit of Asia Bibi and her family from Pakistan, as the situation is becoming increasingly perilous.”

Press Association contributed to this report

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