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Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, has left the country, officials have confirmed.

Her conviction was overturned last year by the Supreme Court.

She was originally convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours.

Asia Bibi has always maintained her innocence in a highly sensitive case that has polarised Pakistan.

Pakistani government officials did not reveal her destination, or say when she left.

But her lawyer Saif ul Malook told the BBC she had already arrived in Canada, where two of her daughters are understood to have been granted asylum.

Asia Noreen – commonly known as Asia Bibi – was kept at a secret location while arrangements were made for her to leave the country.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he wishes Asia Bibi “all the best” now she has been “safely reunited with her family”.

The Supreme Court’s quashing of her sentence last October led to violent protests by religious hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws, while more liberal sections of society urged her release.

Last year, Pakistani authorities arrested prominent Islamic cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, whose Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party led mass protests over Asia Bibi’s acquittal.

Dozens of his supporters and TLP leaders were also detained.

Officials say they were arrested to maintain public order after the cleric urged his supporters to “jam the whole country” if he was arrested.

Islamist groups have regularly called for Asia Bibi to be executed and activists say she would not have been safe had she stayed in Pakistan.

The trial stems from an argument Asia Bibi had with a group of women in June 2009.

They were harvesting fruit when a row broke out about a bucket of water. The women said that because she had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean.

Prosecutors alleged that in the row which followed, the women said Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and that she made offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad in response.

She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.

BBC

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