Christmas will be 'lonely' for Asia Bibi, says campaigner

Protesters hold up placards while demanding the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, at a rally in Lahore on Nov. 21, 2010.Reuters

Christian mother Asia Bibi is still facing a 'lonely' Christmas despite being freed from death row, says a Christian campaigner. 

The mother-of-five, who spent nearly a decade in prison after being accused of blasphemy, was freed in November but has been forced into hiding because of the strength of opposition from Muslim hardliners. 

Although the Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted her of all charges, it will be hearing a petition challenging that decision in January, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) said. 

BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry said he recently met with the Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK in London, who defended the appeal process against the acquittal and said it would run its course in the courts. 

'Despite her joy at being free I cannot believe that Asia Bibi is feeling like much of a winner today,' said Chowdhry.

'Especially as she remains under police protection in Pakistan at a secret location unable to even exit the room she is in for fear she will be instantly killed, while she is forced to await a Supreme Court hearing of a petition in January calling for her acquittal to be quashed.

'Christmas will be a lonely time for Asia Bibi and her husband Ashiq as they spend it together away from other family members as we know the appeal will not be heard before Christmas and is expected during the early part of the new year.'

The family has appealed for asylum from Western countries, including the UK.  Despite outcry from politicians and Christian campaign groups, the UK has so far withheld from making an offer of asylum. 

Prime Minister Theresa May has denied accusations that she blocked an offer from being made, while Home Secretary Sajid Javid said her safety was his 'first concern'.