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World News

Asia Bibi's husband pleads for asylum for family

by Cara Bentley

Asia Noreen, known publicly as Asia Bibi, was accused of blasphemy against the Muslim prophet Muhammad and arrested in 2010. She spent the following years in prison, facing a potential death sentence, until Wednesday when the highest court in Pakistan decided the accusations were based on flimsy evidence and that the witness statements did not concur. 

Despite being acquitted, she is now in incredible danger because of the backlash the court decision has caused in Pakistan. Many from Islamist political parties took to the streets to protest her freedom, leading to the government making a deal with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party (TLP), agreeing to consider putting Asia's name on an Exit Control List of people who can't leave the country, if they stop protesting. 

Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, has spoken in a video asking for asylum to be granted to the whole family and their guardian Joseph Nadeem in the UK, saying: "I am requesting the prime minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom."

He has requested the video is not shared by the media. 

He said: "I am requesting the prime minister of Britain to help us exit Pakistan and give us asylum if she can,"

"We are so under threat we are stuck in this house."

He also called for asylum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump in the footage.

Asia Bibi's lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, who won her the case, has already fled the country for his safety. 

Masih also told website dw.com on Saturday: "The current situation is very dangerous for us. We have no security and are hiding here and there, frequently changing our location. I think that the clerics will encircle the Supreme Court on the day of the hearing. I will really feel very afraid of going on that day. But I think God has been protecting us and he will also continue to protect us. I place all my trust in God."

Wilson Chowdhry from the British Pakistani Christian Association said: "Asia Bibi and her entire family are in need of immediate asylum. She and her family have suffered enough, she just needs a country willing to cut through the bureaucracy.

"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. 

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May stopped short of offering asylum here when asked a question by Christian and Conservative MP Fiona Bruce in PMQs by saying: "The news out of Pakistan of the release of Asia Bibi will be very welcome to her family and to all those who have campaigned in Pakistan, and indeed around the world, for her release. Our long-standing position on the death penalty is well known: we call for its abolition globally."

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