By Bart H. Meijer
THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Pakistani lawyer who helped free a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy said on Monday he had been forced to flee to the Netherlands for his life, and has no idea where his client is.
Lawyer Saiful Mulook, who defended Asia Bibi in a case that has led to the assassination of two Pakistani politicians, said local United Nations staff had urged him to leave the country on Saturday following her acquittal last week.
“I was put on a plane against my wishes,” Mulook told reporters in The Hague. “I am not happy to be without her. I would have been much happier if I was in the same place as her. But everybody said I was a prime target.”
Mulook said he did not know whether Bibi had already been released from prison, or where she would want to seek asylum after being acquitted by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
“Ask the people of the U.N.”, Mulook said. “They are not telling me, for security reasons.”
Bibi was convicted in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam during an argument with her neighbors, and had been on death row since then.
The court’s decision to overturn the verdict led to violent protests throughout Pakistan by angry mobs calling for the judges in the case to be killed.
Several parties in the Dutch parliament have said they support providing temporary shelter to Bibi if she flees there.
Mulook said Italy had offered asylum to both Bibi and her family and his own family, but that they had not accepted the offer straightaway, as U.N. staff said they would make arrangements.
Islamists have shut down major cities in Pakistan through days of demonstrations against Bibi’s acquittal. They have said they would escalate the protests if she were permitted to leave the country. The government has indicated it will bar her from traveling abroad.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; editing by David Stamp)