Pakistani Christian woman freed after blasphemy sentence acquittal

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Bibi, a mother of five, had been released from a prison in Multan, a city in southern Punjab province, according to Pakistani officials.

She was flown to the airport near the capital, Islamabad, but was in protective custody because of threats to her life, three Pakistani officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Bibi's lawyer - who fled the country this week and sought asylum in the Netherlands - confirmed she was no longer in prison.

"All I can tell you is that she has been released," lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook told Reuters by phone from the Netherlands

Her husband Ashiq Masih has appealed for Britain or the United States to grant the family asylum.

Supreme Court ruling sparks protests 

Bibi's case has underscored divisions between traditionalists and modernisers in the conservative Muslim nation.

It stems from an incident in 2009 when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields.

Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim, she should not touch the water bowl, and reportedly a fight erupted.

A local imam then claimed Bibi insulted the Prophet Mohammed -- a charge she denies.

Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unsubstantiated allegations of insulting Islam can result in death at the hands of mobs.

Thousands of Islamists poured onto the streets in protest after Supreme Court judges overturned Bibi's conviction last Wednesday, causing Prime Minister Imran Khan's administration to sign a controversial deal with the Islamist hardliners behind the protests to bar her from leaving until a final court appeal is heard.

(FRANCE with AFP and REUTERS)

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