Italy is working behind the scenes with other western nations to help a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, amid fears for her safety in Pakistan following her acquittal of blasphemy after eight years on death row, deputy premier Matteo Salvini said on Tuesday.
“We are working discreetly with other western countries. This is necessary to protect her and her family,” Salvini told Italy’s Rtl 102.5 radio station.
“We cannot allow a situation like this in 2018…women and children should not be in danger,” he went on.
Bibi, who had been sentenced to hang, cannot leave Pakistan after violent protests by the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party after Pakistan’s Supreme Court cleared her of all charges last week. Her husband Ashiq Masih says the family could be killed by Islamists and has pleaded for asylum in the UK, US or Canada.
Bibi’s case has galvanised Christian and human rights groups outraged by the country’s treatment of religious minorities including its tiny Christian population. Scores of Christians have been convicted of blasphemy since the 1990s in Pakistan.
“It is definitely a priority for me to guarantee a future to that poor woman and her family. There are many Italians working in Pakistan and we have major trade ties with the country,” Salvini said.
“Pakistan is certainly not an enemy and we are operating with a high level of discretion and care, but we will fight every form of fanaticism,” Salvini concluded.
Salvini is also Italy’s interior minister and leader of the rightwing League party, which has been critical of Islam.