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Pakistan blasphemy case: Asia Bibi flown out of the country

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Media captionAsia Bibi’s escape from Pakistan death row

A Pakistani Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy is being flown out of the country after being freed from prison, her lawyer says.

Asia Bibi spent eight years on death row before her conviction was overturned last month.

The Supreme Court ruling sparked protests from Islamists and the government had said it would bar her from leaving Pakistan.

Her husband had said they were in danger and pleaded for asylum.

Her lawyer Saif ul Malook said that she was being flown out of Pakistan with her immediate family but he did not know where they were going.

Asia Bibi had earlier been released from prison in the city of Multan.

Also known as Asia Noreen, she was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a row with neighbours.

Several countries have offered her asylum.

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EPA

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Asia Bibi’s acquittal sparked protests by Islamists

The Pakistani government had previously said it would start legal proceedings to prevent her going abroad after agreeing the measure to end the violent protests.

What was Asia Bibi accused of?

The trial stems from an argument Asia Bibi had with a group of women in June 2009.

They were harvesting fruit when a row broke out about a bucket of water. The women said that because she had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean.

Prosecutors alleged that in the row which followed, the women said Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and that she made offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad in response.

She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.

Acquitting her, the Supreme Court said that the case was based on unreliable evidence and her confession was delivered in front of a crowd “threatening to kill her”.

Why is this case so divisive?

Islam is Pakistan’s national religion and underpins its legal system. Public support for the strict blasphemy laws is strong.

Hard-line politicians have often backed severe punishments, partly as a way of shoring up their support base.

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But critics say the laws have often been used to exact revenge after personal disputes, and that convictions are based on thin evidence.

The vast majority of those convicted are Muslims or members of the Ahmadi community, but since the 1990s scores of Christians have been convicted. They make up just 1.6% of the population.

The Christian community has been targeted by numerous attacks in recent years, leaving many feeling vulnerable to a climate of intolerance.

Since 1990, at least 65 people have reportedly been killed in Pakistan over claims of blasphemy.

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