Bibi spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy. Even after her sentence was commuted, she was forced to remain in the same jail due to concerns over her safety.
Despite calls by protestors to place Bibi on the country’s exit control list, she is legally free to leave the country.
Her acquittal in October prompted violent protests orchestrated by the Islamist movement Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), The protests were later subdued through a deal reached between the Pakistani government and the TLP — with the government agreeing not to oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgment.
The government also pledged not to oppose a TLP application to add Bibi to a list preventing her from leaving the country, and the government agreed to release everyone detained in connection with the protests.
Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, who fled Pakistan to the Netherlands, told reporters in The Hague on Monday that the UN and EU made him leave “against his wishes.”
“I pressed them that I would not leave the country unless I get Asia out of the prison,” Malook said during a news conference.
Blasphemy conviction overturned
Bibi, a mother of five from Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to hang after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during an argument a year earlier with Muslim colleagues.
The workers had refused to drink from a bucket of water Bibi had touched because she was not Muslim. At the time, Bibi said the case was a matter of women who didn’t like her “taking revenge.”
Last month, she won her appeal against the conviction and death sentence.
The TLP had previously vowed to take to the streets if Bibi were released, and large protests broke out in Islamabad and Lahore soon after the ruling was announced.
Under Pakistan’s penal code, the offense of blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Widely criticized by international human rights groups, the law has been used disproportionately against minority religious groups in the country and to go after journalists critical of the Pakistani religious establishment.
Bibi’s case has attracted widespread outrage and support from Christians worldwide. Conservative Islamist groups in Pakistan have demanded the death penalty be carried out.