Asia Bibi's lawyer in hiding in Holland

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

Arranging an interview with Saif-ul-Malook is not straightforward.

He has been in hiding since arriving in the Netherlands last weekend.

First, I have to meet an activist from a group which campaigns against the persecution of Christians around the world.

Once they were satisfied I was who I said I was, I was asked to meet the lawyer and another activist at a motorway service station somewhere in Holland.

I was asked to be vague about the location to help protect him from possible assassination.

It's a valid concern because while his client, Asia Bibi, was on death row for eight years, two Pakistani politicians were killed for speaking out in her defence.

Hardline groups in Pakistan have called for Ms Bibi's death. Credit: AP

Ms Bibi, a Christian woman, was jailed and sentenced to death in 2010 after a quarrel with Muslim neighbours who accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Mr ul-Malook successfully defended Ms Bibi and she was released on appeal earlier this month.

That makes him a target, and he told me that if he went back to Pakistan he would be in danger.

Mr ul-Malook is currently hiding in the Netherlands.

He's been given a 90-day visa to stay in the Netherlands and is being moved from secret location to secret location until a safe house can be secured.

"I didn't want to leave," he told me, but the threats made against his life and his client's life by fundamentalist Islamist groups had to be taken seriously.

He had to shelter in the French Embassy in Islamabad for three nights before the army escorted him to the airport.

Asia Bibi, seen here in 2010. Credit: PA

It's not clear if Ms Bibi will now follow her lawyer into exile in Holland.

It is hoped she will, according to the Christian charity protecting him and working to secure her safety.

"She's in government custody, the safe custody of the Pakistan army, and when a country accepts her, she'll be there," Mr-ul-Malook told me.

"She could have been killed by now if she wasn't taken by the government into safe custody."

It's possible that Ms Bibi could be given asylum in the UK.

Last Saturday, her husband asked Theresa May if his family could be granted sanctuary in Britain.

There is a possibility the Pakistani government could bar her from leaving.

Diplomatic negotiations continue.