Asia Bibi freed from prison following blasphemy acquittal

World Watch MonitorAsia Bibi – also known as Aasiya Noreen - won an appeal against her death sentence for blasphemy.

Christian mother Asia Bibi has been freed from prison after Pakistan's Supreme Court acquitted her of blasphemy charges last week.

Bibi's release was thrown into question when violent protests by Islamist hardliners brought Pakistan to a standstill, prompting the Pakistani government to agree to court proceedings designed to stop her from leaving the country.

However, Voice of the Martyrs said on Wednesday that Asia Bibi was now free and on a plane out of Pakistan, although it did not reveal her destination.

'Praise the Lord for answered prayer!' the organisation said on Twitter.

'Please #PRAY for Christians as they face possible backlash from radical Muslims angry that Asia has been freed & allowed to leave country.'

President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani was among those welcoming the news.

'#AsiaBibi has left the prison and has been transferred to a safe place! I thank the Pakistani authorities. I look forward meeting her and her family, in the European Parliament as soon as possible,' he tweeted.

Bibi, a mother of five, was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 and spent the next eight years in prison in solitary confinement.

The blasphemy charge was sparked by a dispute the previous year with Muslim colleagues on a fruit farm where she worked. The coworkers accused her of insulting Islam after she had offered to share a cup of water with them, which they found offensive because of her Christian faith.

The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled last week that there had not been enough evidence to convict Bibi of blasphemy and had ordered her release, immediately prompting calls for asylum from her family and human rights activists who warned she would not be safe in Pakistan.

On Wednesday, Tajani had sent a letter to Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, promising the European Parliament's help in securing her release from prison. 

In the letter, Tajani said he had personally contacted the relevant Pakistani authorities to ask them to provide Masih and his wife the necessary travel documents to leave Pakistan.

'The European Parliament is extremely concerned for your safety as well as your family's,' he wrote. 

'We have asked the Pakistani authorities to guarantee your safety and of those protecting you. 

'The Pakistani authorities must uphold the rule of law and their international human rights commitments.'

On Twitter, he added: 'European rules provide protection for those who are threatened because of their faith.'

Masih has appealed to the US, Canada, the UK and Italy for asylum.  Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini indicated that the country would open its doors to Bibi. 

He said: '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, 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.'