Aasia Bibi asks France for asylum

By: AFP      Published: 12:00 AM, 25 Feb, 2020
Aasia Bibi asks France for asylum
–File photo of Aasia Bibi

Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was acquitted by the Supreme Court in a blasphemy case in 2018, said Monday that she was seeking political asylum from the French government.

“My great desire is to live in France,” Bibi said in an interview with RTL radio, her first trip to France since fleeing with her family to Canada in 2018.

Her visit comes a few weeks after the publication of her book “Enfin Libre!” (Finally Free) in French last month, with an English version due in September.

“France is the country from where I received my new life... Anne-Isabelle is an angel for me,” she said, referring to the French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who waged a long campaign for her release and later co-wrote Bibi’s book.

On Tuesday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is to bestow an honorary citizenship certificate granted to Aasia by the city in 2014, when she was still behind bars.

She said she did not have any meeting scheduled with President Emmanuel Macron, but “obviously I would like the president to hear my request.”

In her book, Aasia recounts the nightmare conditions she was subjected to in prison until her release in 2018, amid an international outcry over her treatment.

She later fled with her family to Canada, where she has been living in an undisclosed location under police protection.

“Obviously I am enormously grateful to Canada,” Aasia said, adding that she now wanted to work “hand in hand” with Tollet to urge Pakistan authorities to free others imprisoned over the country’s anti-blasphemy laws.

‘Exile forever’

Last May, she was spirited away to Canada, where Tollet was the only reporter to have met with Aasia since her arrival.

She also recounts the difficulty of adjusting to her new life, and the pain of having to leave without seeing her father or other members of her family.

“Pakistan is my country. I love my country but I am in exile forever,” she wrote.