1. ITV Report

Lawyer for alleged blasphemer Asia Bibi flees Pakistan fearing for his safety

Asia Bibi (l) and opponents calling for the death penalty to be upheld. Photo: Muhammad Sajjad/AP

The lawyer for Asia Bibi, acquitted of blasphemy charges after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan, has fled the country, fearing for his safety.

Ms Bibi's brother, James Masih, said on Saturday that her lawyer, Saiful Malook, had left Pakistan.

Pakistan's top court acquitted Ms Bibi, a Christian, on Wednesday and ordered her release in a move that infuriated the country’s hard-line Islamists.

Many have held nationwide protests demanding her death.

Protesters rally to condemn the Supreme Court decision. Credit: AP

The government reached an agreement with the Islamists overnight in which it agreed to impose a travel ban on her while the case is reviewed.

Mr Malook said earlier this week that he would have to leave Pakistan because the followers of hardline cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi had threatened to kill him, as well as the judges who acquitted Ms Bibi.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumour of insulting Islam has caused lynchings.

Ms Bibi was arrested in 2009 on allegations that she insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Her family and lawyers deny she ever insulted Islam.

Asia Bibi seen in 2010. Credit: AP

Human rights groups have called for Ms Bibi’s release and criticised the blasphemy law, saying it has been used to settle scores or abuse religious minorities.

The court upheld the blasphemy law, but said there was not enough evidence to convict Ms Bibi.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has not been known to reverse its decisions, but court reviews typically take years.

Ms Bibi’s family had expected her release by Thursday night.

Her husband, Ashiq Masih, returned from Britain with their children in mid-October and was waiting for her release so that they could fly out of Pakistan.

Though the family has not disclosed her destination, France and Spain have offered asylum.

Supporters of radical groups burn a poster of Prime Minister Imran Khan during a rally to condemn the Supreme Court decision Credit: Shakil Adil/AP