Christian Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 and acquitted six months ago, left Pakistan and “found” her family on Wednesday in Canada.
“She is in Canada,” where she found her two daughters, said a Canadian source who requested anonymity.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for his part, refused to officially confirm it, while several sources, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, seemed to suggest it.
“I can not confirm anything for reasons of privacy and security,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
In mid-November, he told AFP he was “in talks with the government of Pakistan” about Asia Bibi.
Earlier in the afternoon, a Pakistani government source, on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AFP that the Christian had “left Pakistan of her own free will”.
The Pakistani authorities observed a complete silence on its destination or conditions of departure.
Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Saif ul Mulook, admitting that she did not speak directly to her client, told AFP she understood after talking to her own “sources” that she was in Canada. , where his daughters, Esha and Ehsam, fled several months ago, according to several diplomatic sources.
Several security sources in Pakistan also told AFP that the Christian woman had gone to Canada.
“The United States welcomes the news that Asia Bibi has found her family … (…) Asia Bibi is now free,” welcomed in a statement the head of the American diplomacy Mike Pompeo.
The Christian woman was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 after being accused by two Muslim women villagers with whom she was working for “insulting” the Prophet Muhammad during a quarrel over a glass of water.
– “Relief” –
His case had become emblematic of the excesses of the law on blasphemy in Pakistan, often instrumental according to his critics to resolve personal conflicts via the dissemination of false accusations.
“It is a great relief that this shameful trial has finally come to an end and that Asia Bibi and her family are safe,” said Omar Waraich, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s South Asia Program.
“She should never have been imprisoned let alone endured the constant threats to her life,” he said, calling for the “repeal” of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
In Mike Pompeo’s statement, Washington also “unequivocally condemned blasphemy laws around the world”.
Ms. Bibi, a Christian farm worker in her fifties, was finally acquitted in October by the Pakistan Supreme Court, the highest court of justice, after spending more than eight years on death row.
After his acquittal, thousands of Islamists from the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) group blocked three days in the main roads of the country to demand his hanging, blasphemy being a burning issue in Pakistan.
The same Supreme Court had finally cleared him in January by dismissing an appeal against his acquittal.
Since then, Asia Bibi was presumably kept under house arrest, the conditions of her stay in recent months have not been clarified by Islamabad.
– “The most hated” –
The fate of Asia Bibi has had an international impact, attracting the attention of popes Benedict XVI and Francis. One of his daughters met him twice.
“Asia Bibi is finally free,” said an association of British Christians of British origin (British Pakistan Christian Association), who said he was involved in the case Asia Bibi.
“The most famous victim of Pakistan’s blasphemy law was finally released from her homeland, where she became the most hated figure,” the association said in a statement.
The fate of another Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy in August 2012 had already aroused strong emotions in the world. Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old illiterate and mentally retarded girl, was accused by neighbors of burning pages of an introduction to the Koran. Justice had dropped charges against her in November. When she was released, she and her family had to hide before being welcomed to Canada.
Christians, who make up about 2 percent of Pakistan’s predominantly Muslim population, are one of Pakistan’s most declassified communities. They often live in shantytowns and are offered low-paying jobs as sweepers, cleaning agents or cooks.