Photo by Carl Russ-Mohl @muphovi
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Asia Bibi's lawyer says he has no regrets

Wed 28 Nov 2018
By Cara Bentley

Speaking in London, the lawyer who fled for his life says he made the right decision in defending her. 

In 2009, Asia Bibi was arrested and accused of criticising the Prophet Muhammad in an argument about her drinking from the same cup as some Muslim women near a well. 

She was arrested five days later for blasphemy against Islam and, in 2010, she was sentenced to death by hanging.

After nearly a decade of petitions, visits by the family to the Pope and the UK and growing international interest, she was freed in October.

At the risk of threats from hardline Islamists, lawyer Saif ul-Malook took up Asia Bibi's case after she lost in the first court

Asia's case had become high-profile with far-right Muslim groups, such as the TLP party in Pakistan, determined to see her sentence fulfilled, either by the law or by mob-killing.

Before she was acquitted, two politicians were killed for speaking out in her defence - Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer. 

When the Supreme Court decided she would not face the death sentence, there were riots in Pakistan.

Saif ul-Malook fled the country, saying earlier this month that he has been inundated with threats.

He took shelter in the French Embassy in Pakistan for three nights before the army took him to their airport where he eventually went to the Netherlands.

At the Secular Conference event on Sunday, called Sharia, Segregation and Secularism, he delivered the keynote speech, speaking about how he had worked on the case for four years.

He said he had never seen a situation "where a group of people come with such a demand that they will kill the highest constitutional court judges if the verdict does not come to their wishes".

He described her situation: "You can imagine what was her status. She had never gone to school... She cannot write her name."

He told the audience that his background may have shaped his concern for her cause: "As a small young boy, I used to go to church to all the functions, they would come to our functions.

"I have many Christian friends in Pakistan... Everywhere in the world, there should be some people who must stand when then the nation needs, must stand when no one is standing.

"I'm proud of defending...Asia Bibi. I have no regret."

One woman wrote on twitter: "Unsurprisingly, Saif ul-Malook, who represented #AsiaBibi, received a standing ovation, and the loudest cheers and applause I've heard in a while, after he delivered his speech."

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