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Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan

Islamist activists carry placards calling for Asia Bibi to be executed (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Her lawyer says she is now in Canada, where her children have asylum

Asia Bibi, the Christian mother-of-four who spent eight years awaiting execution for blasphemy, has left Pakistan and joined her children in Canada.

Although the Pakistani authorities refused to confirm either her departure or destination, Bibi’s lawyer, Saif ul Malook, confirmed to the BBC that she had already arrived in Canada. Two of her children are there already.

Bibi’s conviction was quashed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court last October. Her conviction in 2010 was the result of an argument in June 2009 between Bibi and a group of women who claimed she had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The women had refused to use a cup that Bibi had used herself, claiming she was unclean because of her being Christian. It was claimed that Bibi had blasphemed against Muhammad after the women told her she should convert to Islam, and again when she was assaulted at home. In acquitting her, the Supreme Court recognised that her confession was extracted under duress by a violent mob threatening to kill her and, therefore, the evidence against her was unreliable.

Islam is Pakistan’s national religion. The country has some of the world’s strictest blasphemy laws, for which there is great public support. Christians, comprising a mere 1.6% of the population, are subject to civil repression, discrimination and very often violent attacks.

It is thought at least 65 people in Pakistan have been killed since 1990 over blasphemy claims. Bibi was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.