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Freed Pakistan Christian Asia Bibi arrives in Canada

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The mother of four was acquitted of blasphemy charges last year.

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian mother of four who spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, is reportedly now in Canada, where she and her family have been granted asylum.

While Pakistani authorities have not confirmed Bibi’s departure, her lawyer, Saif ul Malook, told the BBC that she has already arrived in Canada, where two of her daughters are living.

Bibi was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Mohammad during an argument with neighbors. Blasphemy has been punishable by death in Pakistan since 1986. Bibi was acquitted of all charges by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on October 31, 2018.

After her acquittal, Bibi had been living in secret locations within Pakistan, as she worked with European diplomats who were trying to secure her release from the country.

In Pakistan Christians are the the second-largest minority, after Hindus, numbering about 1.3 million in a country of over 204 million people.

The court’s decision was met with violent protests from radical Muslims. More than 3,000 members of the radical Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) group were arrested on charges of terrorism following the riots, and members of the group’s leadership remain in prison.

Riots ceased only after the government agreed to keep Bibi in the country and allow a review petition to be heard in court. That challenge was rejected by the court on January 29, effectively allowing Bibi to leave the country.

Last week 51 members of the European Parliament released a letter calling on Imran Khan, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to end the persecution of religious minorities. The letter condemned the country’s blasphemy laws and said that the signers would be “compelled to call on the European Commission to suspend all subsidies and trade preferences until the effective implementation of the Convention could be assured by the Government of Pakistan.”

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has decried the “abuse” of blasphemy laws in the country, noting in their annual report released last month that 70 people suspected of insulting Islam have been lynched as a result of the laws.

“The blasphemy laws have been grossly abused with many people lodging false complaints to settle their personal vendettas,” it said. “In many cases, blasphemy allegations end up in a mob lynching or targeted killing of the accused before they can be tried or heard in a court of law.”

The laws do not seem to be popular among Pakistanis. In a 2014 poll 68% of Pakistanis said that blasphemy laws should be repealed, reported EU Today.

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