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Asia Bibi stuck in Pakistani prison over death fears

A Pakistani Christian woman whose death sentence for blasphemy charges was commuted last week is trapped in ...

Posted: Nov 5, 2018 6:20 PM
Updated: Nov 5, 2018 6:20 PM

A Pakistani Christian woman whose death sentence for blasphemy charges was commuted last week is trapped in a prison that has been converted into a safe house, a source with direct knowledge of the facility told CNN on Monday.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five from Punjab province, is unable to leave the facility over fears that her life is in jeopardy, the source added.

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In newly released details, CNN has learned that the Pakistani army and intelligence services have jurisdiction over the jail and are in charge of her safety, the source said.

Extra surveillance cameras have been installed at the converted jail in recent days and any individuals entering or leaving the location are searched, including those who are charged with preparing Bibi's food, according to the police source.

Bibi's lawyer Saiful Malook, who has fled Pakistan to the Netherlands, told reporters in The Hague on Monday that the UN and EU made him leave "against his wishes."

"I pressed them that I would not leave the country unless I get Asia out of the prison," Malook said during a new conference.

The lawyer had previously told CNN that he was concerned for his life.

His departure comes as Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, begged the United Kingdom, the United States or Canada to grant his family asylum, in a video message seen by the Guardian.

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to hang after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during an argument a year earlier with Muslim colleagues.

The workers had refused to drink from a bucket of water Bibi had touched because she was not Muslim. At the time, Bibi said the case was a matter of women who didn't like her "taking revenge."

On Wednesday, she won her appeal against the conviction and death sentence.

Bibi's acquittal prompted violent demonstrations by the Islamist movement Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

In an effort to end the protests, the government on Friday struck a deal with the TLP that included a pledge not to oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court's judgment. The petition is not yet legally binding.

The government also agreed not to oppose a TLP application to add Bibi to a list preventing her from leaving the country. And the government agreed to release everyone detained in connection with the protests.

The TLP had previously vowed to take to the streets if Bibi were released, and large protests broke out in Islamabad and Lahore soon after the ruling was announced.

Under Pakistan's penal code, the offense of blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Widely criticized by international human rights groups, the law has been used disproportionately against minority religious groups in the country and journalists who are critical of the Pakistani religious establishment.

Bibi's case has attracted widespread outrage and support from Christians worldwide. Conservative Islamist groups in Pakistan have demanded the death penalty be carried out.

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