By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ISLAMABAD/AMSTERDAM (BosNewsLife)– The lawyer who helped free a Christian woman who faced the death sentence in Pakistan
for blasphemy has fled to The Netherlands amid international fears for his safety.
Saif-ul-Malook left Pakistan on Saturday, November 3, and arrived at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol just days after his client Asia Bibi had been acquitted of blasphemy against Islam; officials told BosNewsLife.
Greeting the lawyer were European legislator Peter van Dalen of the ChristenUnion-SGP faction along with activist Jan Dirk van Nifterik who leads the Dutch advocacy group ‘Hulp Vervolgde Christenen’ (Help Persecuted Christians), footage obtained by BosNewsLife showed.
“Van Niftrik en Van Dalen have met Mr. Malook several times in Pakistan,” said Van Dalen’s office in a statement to BosNewsLife. But speaking to reporters in the Dutch city of The Hague on Monday, November 5, Malook said the EU and the United Nations made him leave the country “against” his wishes because his life was at risk.
Malook said that he contacted a UN official in Islamabad after Islamist violence erupted following the Supreme Court’s ruling. “And then they and the European nations’ ambassadors in Islamabad, they kept me for three days and then put me on a plane against my wishes,” the lawyer added.
The lawyer earlier said he had left Pakistan “to save [my] life from an angry mob” and because of fears for the safety of his family. He had been threatened by angry mobs who also called for the hanging of judges in the case.
In 2011, militants killed two Pakistani politicians who were trying to help Bibi.
The Pakistani government announced over the weekend that it had reached a deal with Islamists overnight in which it agreed to impose a travel ban on Bibi while the case is under review. In return, the Islamists halted their often violent protests, which had blocked roads and brought life to a standstill in parts of the country.
Malook explained that he did not know when authorities would release her from prison or where she sought asylum after being acquitted by the Supreme Court on October 31.
“Ask the people of the UN,” Malook said. “They are not telling me, for security reasons.” Bibi’s were not known, but her husband has pleaded for asylum from Britain, the United States or Canada. The husband, Ashiq Masih, said the family was in “great danger” in Pakistan.
Bibi, a farm worker, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after she reportedly told Muslim colleagues that Jesus Christ is alive and attempted to drink from the same well as other workers.
Besides “insulting Prophet Muhammad” she was accused “of contaminating” the well by Muslims.
She was charged with blasphemy and a lower court eventually sentenced her to death by hanging in 2010. After years of delays, judges confirmed the sentence in October 2014.
Bibi appealed, and nearly two years later she was to appear in front of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. But the appeal hearing was adjourned following pressure from angry Muslims who packed the courtroom to demand her execution.
Only last month Bibi learned that she was innocent of blasphemy.
Islamists have warned they will not rest before the 49-year-old mother of five is hanging for her “crime.” Several parties in Dutch parliament have said they support providing temporary shelter to Bibi if she flees there.