Asia Bibi, pictured in Paris on Feb. 26, is in France to promote her autobiography and to be made an honorary citizen of Paris. (Photo courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need)
Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges in 2019, is seeking political asylum in France. The move comes only nine months after Bibi and her family were allowed to leave Pakistan and seek asylum in Canada.
The Catholic mother, who spent almost a decade on death row in Pakistan after she was falsely accused of blasphemy against Islam, said she wants to live closer to French writer Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who played a key role in her fight for freedom and helped write her autobiography, Enfin Libre (Finally Free). Tollet is the only reporter to have met her during her stay in Canada.
Bibi is currently in France promote the book, which so far has been published only in French, and also to be made an "honorary citizen" of Paris, Catholic News Service reported.
During an interview with RTL radio on Feb. 24, Bibi revealed that she plans to ask President Emmanuel Macron for political asylum in France when the two meet on Feb. 28. “Obviously I would like the president to listen to my request. My greatest desire is to live in France,” she said.
According to a news release from Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, Bibi confirmed that she was seeking asylum in France.
"I have found a lot of love here," she said. "I think I'd be fine."
However, it is unclear if Bibi and her family have yet made a formal application for asylum in France.
The mother of five was sentenced to hang for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in June 2009 following a dispute with Muslim co-workers whom she claims objected to her sharing their water because of her faith. She has always denied the blasphemy allegation.
Islamic extremists demanded her execution and, for her own safety, she was held in solitary confinement from November 2010, when she was convicted.
Bibi failed in her 2016 appeal against conviction at the High Court but in October 2018 she was exonerated by the Supreme Court.
The ruling inflamed tensions in Pakistan and she was forced to remain in the country for seven months before she could join her husband and two daughters at a secret address in Canada in May 2019.
Describing herself as “a prisoner of fanaticism,” Bibi said Pakistan's Christian minority still faces persecution.
She said that while she's grateful to Canada for offering her security and a new life, she regrets that she will probably never set foot in her homeland again.
She refers to Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws as a “Damocles sword” hanging over the head of religious minorities.
According to the Center for Social Justice, between 1987 and 2017, at least 1,500 people were charged with blasphemy in Pakistan, while at least 75 people accused of blasphemy were murdered