The Italian government on Tuesday said it would help Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted in a blasphemy case by the Supreme Court last week, leave the country.
“I want women and children whose lives are at risk to be able to have a secure future, in our country or in other Western countries,” Reuters quoted Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini as saying. “So I will do everything humanly possible to guarantee that [for Bibi]. It is not permissible that in 2018 someone can risk losing their life for a…hypothesis of blasphemy.” Salvini said his government was working “discreetly” with other Western countries on the matter.
Protests erupted in Pakistan following Bibi’s acquittal, forcing the government to impose a travel ban on her till the case is reviewed.
Her lawyer Saiful Mulook fled to the Netherlands on Saturday fearing for his family’s safety. Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, has appealed to British Prime Minister Theresa May to grant the family asylum in the United Kingdom. In a video message, he also requested asylum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, Canada urged Pakistan to ensure Bibi’s well-being. “It is a very important issue, a central priority for our government,” said Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Meanwhile, Punjab province’s Minister for Prisons Zawar Hussain Warraich told AFP on Wednesday that Bibi was still in jail because authorities have not received her release order. “Normally we receive orders in two days after court judgement and if relatives and lawyers of a prisoner are very active, they can bring it even within a day, but as far as Asia Bibi is concerned, it has not happened yet,” Warraich added.
The minister said Bibi will be released immediately if the Supreme Court issues an order for her release. He denied that Bibi has been provided extra security.
Bibi was accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a group of women in her neighbourhood near Lahore in 2009. The women had said they could no longer use a cup from which Bibi had drunk water because of her religion. Bibi later acknowledged using “hot words” during the ensuing argument but insisted that she never said anything blasphemous.
A trial court sentenced her to death for blasphemy in 2010. She moved the Supreme Court against a 2014 Lahore High Court order that upheld the trial court’s decision. Bibi has spent most of the last eight years in solitary confinement.