- 230 international leaders signed open letter to Prime Minister Khan to guarantee safe passage out of the country
- Bibi’s case one of several in Pakistan
VIENNA (29 January 2019) – On 29 January 2019, the Pakistani Supreme Court rejected a bid to overrule Asia Bibi’s acquittal. Late last year, her death sentence for blasphemy was overturned by the same court in a landmark ruling, sparking violent protest. Despite the positive judgment, Bibi has been kept in custody and not allowed to leave the country. Given the clear concerns for her safety, more than 230 international parliamentarians signed an open letter urging the Pakistani government to secure safe passage from the country.
“The Supreme Court of Pakistan has confirmed its acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, accused of blasphemy. We now hope that she is allowed to finally leave the country and urge the Government of Pakistan to secure Bibi’s and her family’s safe exit. We are grateful for the more than 230 parliamentarians from different countries and across the political spectrum who have raised their voices in support of, and in solidarity with, Asia Bibi,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, a legal organization protecting human dignity and promoting fundamental freedom worldwide.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. While the right to religious freedom is protected by the Pakistani constitution, we nonetheless see Christians face severe persecution and denial of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Sadly, Asia Bibi’s case is not an isolated incident but testifies to the plight that many Christians experience in Pakistan today. Blasphemy laws directly violate international law. All people have the right to freely choose, and live out, their faith. We, therefore, urge all governments to uphold this right by ceasing enforcement and initiating repeal of their blasphemy laws.”
International pressure increases
After spending eight years on death row, Asia Bibi’s conviction was overturned in a decision by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in October 2018. She had been accused of blasphemy for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam. In response to the Supreme Court decision, there were violent demonstrations calling for her execution. Pakistan has come under significant international scrutiny. Those concerns are expressed in an open letter supported by prominent signatories from across the globe.
“We urge in the strongest possible terms the Government of Pakistan to guarantee safe passage for Asia, her family, and any of those under threat due to their part in the decision to acquit her, to any country that accepts them,” states the open letter. It emphasizes the importance of “the rule of law and the fundamental human rights to freedom of religion and expression.” The letter holds particular political weight as many of its signatories represent countries providing financial aid to Pakistan.
Find the letter here.