Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Asia Bibi’s lawyer: EU, UN ‘forced’ him to flee the country

LONDON: The lawyer who saved a woman convicted of blasphemy from death row said yesterday that the UN and EU made him leave the country “against my wishes” because his life was at risk.

Saiful Mulook, who is in the Netherlands, said he contacted a United Nations official in Islamabad after Islamist violence erupted following the Pakistani Supreme Court’s acquittal of Asia Bibi on Wednesday.

“And then they (the UN) and the European nation ambassadors in Islamabad, they kept me for three days and then put me on a plane against my wishes,” the lawyer told a press conference in The Hague.

“I pressed them that I would not leave the country unless I get Asia out of the prison … I am not happy to be here without her, but everybody said that you are the prime target at the moment and the whole world is taking care of Asia Bibi.

“They were of the view that I was the prime target to be killed, and that my life was in imminent danger.

“For three days they did not let me open the door, one day I called the French ambassador and said I do not want to be here.”

The lawyer had previously told AFP before his departure on Saturday that he was leaving because “in the current scenario, it’s not possible for me to live in Pakistan”.

Mulook arrived in The Hague at the weekend after a short stopover in Rome, with the help of the HVC Foundation, a Dutch group that focuses on the human rights of Christian minorities.

Bibi spent nearly a decade on death row after being accused of blasphemy after a dispute with fellow villagers.

She remains in Pakistan after Prime Minister Imran Khan struck a deal with the hardliners behind the protests.

\Mulook has dismissed the deal as a “face-saving” exercise for the hardliners from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), and insisted that Bibi would “100% “ be freed soon.

“This compromise is nothing but a piece of paper that can be thrown in the dustbin,” he said.

It is unclear whether Bibi had had any firm offers of asylum if she does leave Pakistan, added the lawyer, who said he was “legally authorised” to choose a country for her.

The lawyer said a UN official in Pakistan told him “we are taking care of her” but that “when I asked, which country, they said we can’t say”.

“I asked the French ambassador ‘would your country be willing to offer asylum to Asia Bibi’.

“He said, if you request us legally, I said ‘OK I request her’.”

Mulook said he did not know whether Bibi had already been released from prison, or where she would want to seek asylum.

“Ask the people of the UN”, Mulook said. “They are not telling me, for security reasons.”

Several parties in the Dutch parliament have said they support providing temporary shelter to Bibi if she flees there.

Mulook said that Italy had offered asylum to both Bibi and her family and his own family, but that they had not accepted the offer straightaway, as UN staff said they would make arrangements.

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