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November 20, 2019
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Husband of Pakistani Asia Bibi pleads for family asylum in UK after blasphemy acquittal

Husband of Pakistani Asia Bibi pleads for family asylum in UK after blasphemy acquittal

The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted on charges of blasphemy has begged Theresa May to grant his wife and their family asylum in the UK.

In a video message seen by the Observer, Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih called on the British prime minister to “help us exit from Pakistan” where thousands of people have protested against the supreme court’s ruling and demanded that she be punished.

The plea came a day after Imran Khan’s government announced it would try to prevent Bibi from leaving the country, which her supporters likened to “signing her death warrant”.

Bibi, a farm labourer, spent eight years on death row after being falsely accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad. This followed a row after she had sipped water from the same cup as a Muslim. On Saturday her lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, said he had fled Pakistan in fear of his life.

In the message recorded on Saturday, Masih, 55, called on May, as well as the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and US president Donald Trump, to bring his family and their longstanding guardian, Joseph Nadeem, to safety in the west.

“I am requesting the prime minister of Britain to help us exit Pakistan and give us asylum if she can,” he said, speaking slowly in a bare white room in a safe house in Pakistan. “We are so under threat we are stuck in this house,” he said later on WhatsApp, requesting that the media refrain from sharing the video to keep his identity hidden.

Wilson Chowdhry, of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said Masih had already applied for asylum at one western embassy but it was not expediting the request. Chowdhry said the family needed “immediate asylum”, adding that it was “incredible” no government had stepped forward so far. “It would not do for her to die because of the tangle of red tape,” he said. The association has launched a petition calling on Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, to grant Bibi’s family asylum.

 

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