Asia Bibi pleads for UK asylum after blasphemy conviction overturned
November 4, 2018 04:00 PM NPT
PAKISTAN, Nov 4: The husband of a Christian Pakistani woman who spent eight years on death row after being accused of blasphemy has asked Theresa May to grant them asylum in Britain.
Asia Bibi has faced calls for her life amid widespread protest after she was acquitted of an allegation of insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
Her husband, Ashiq Masih, on Saturday called for the UK to grant the mother and their family refuge amid fears for their safety.
In a video seen by the Press Association, he says: "I am requesting the Prime Minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom."
Speaking in Punjabi, he also called for asylum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump in the footage.
Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, who has also launched a petition calling for their asylum, said: "The fact no offer has manifested is shocking.
"Hundreds of thousands of people have rioted and called for her death."
The official route to asylum would mean the family would need to make the request after fleeing Pakistan.
However, the Pakistani government reached a deal with Islamists to restrict Bibi's travel while the case is reviewed.
The chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Tom Tugendhat, said he has asked the Home Office for an "urgent evaluation of the situation", the Guardian reported.
"It is clear that Bibi, and other religious minorities, are in grave danger and prime minister Imran Khan needs to decide if he believes in the rule of law or the rule of the mob," the Conservative MP added.
Mrs May has previously called for the death penalty to be abolished globally when asked about Ms Bibi's case.
Bibi was arrested in 2009, accused of insulting Islam's prophet during an argument with fellow farm workers and sentenced to death for blasphemy.
Lawyers have denied she ever insulted Islam.
Campaigners have long-criticised Pakistan's blasphemy laws, saying they are misused to abuse religious minorities.
Pakistan's Supreme Court acquitted Ms Bibi on Wednesday, upholding the law but saying there was not enough evidence to convict her.
Bibi's lawyer fled Pakistan on Saturday while fearing for his life, according to reports.
Nasir Saeed, the director of CLAAS UK - a charity that supports persecuted Christians in Pakistan, called for 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 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."
France and Spain have reportedly offered Bibi asylum.
It has been requested that the footage of her husband's message is not made public for fear of reprisals.