Asia Bibi flown to Islamabad amidst tight security

ISLAMABAD – A Christian woman acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court eight years after being sentenced to death for blasphemy was being flown Wednesday night to a facility in Islamabad from an undisclosed location in another province for security reasons, two senior government officials said.

Amid tight security, Asia Bibi left a detention facility in Punjab province for the flight to the capital, the officials said. Troops guarded the roads leading to the airport from which she departed, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday as they were not authorized to speak to media on the record.

Authorities last month said they arrested two prisoners for allegedly conspiring to strangle her and since then additional police and troops have been deployed to the facility in Punjab. Officials said Bibi will be safer at the new facility in Islamabad.

Bibi’s transfer comes a week after the high court in a landmark ruling acquitted Bibi and ordered her released, a move that triggered nationwide protests. Bibi’s release was put on hold Friday after authorities held talks with radical Islamists who want her publicly hanged.

Authorities now say Bibi may not leave the country because a petition for a review of the court’s ruling was filed by a radical Islamist lawyer requesting the acquittal be reversed. Pakistani courts usually take years to decide such cases.

Bibi was arrested in 2009 on charges of insulting Islam’s prophet and she was sentenced to death in 2010. Her family has always maintained her innocence and says she never insulted the prophet.

Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan.