Woman acquitted of blasphemy still can’t leave Pakistan

By KATHY GANNON

Associated Press

ISLAMABAD — A Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan has been transferred from a secret location near the capital to another in Karachi, but is still unable to leave the country to join her daughters in Canada, a friend said Saturday.

Aman Ullah, who spoke to Aasia Bibi by telephone Friday, said the 54-year-old Bibi is being held in a room in the southern port city. He said Bibi, who faces death threats by radical Islamists, is frustrated and frightened, uncertain of when she will be able to leave Pakistan.

“She has no indication of when she will leave … they are not telling her why she cannot leave,” said Ullah, who fled the country Friday after receiving threats from extremists angered by his assistance to Bibi, which began while she was on death row.

Ullah has been a liaison between Bibi and European diplomats, who have sought to assist her. The Associated Press spoke to Bibi by telephone with Ullah’s assistance following her October acquittal, which was upheld last month.

Bibi’s ordeal began in 2009 when two fellow farmworkers refused to drink from the same container as a Christian woman. There was a quarrel and the two Muslim women later accused Bibi of blasphemy. The Supreme Court judges said there were widespread inconsistencies in the testimony against Bibi, who has steadfastly maintained her innocence.

The acquittal should have given Bibi her freedom, but Ullah said diplomats were told that her departure from Pakistan, where she feels her life would be in danger, would come not in the short term, but “in the medium term.”

He said Bibi told him she is locked in one room of a house.

“The door opens at food time only,” said Ullah, and she is allowed to make phone calls in the morning and again at night. He said she usually calls her daughters.

Bibi’s husband is with her, he said.

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