A Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy has been freed from jail after an acquittal that triggered religious protests, but is still in Pakistan, officials said Thursday amid appeals for her to be offered asylum.

This file undated handout photo released to AFP on November 1, 2018 via the UK charity British Pakistani Christian Association shows a portrait of Asia Bibi, who had been on death row in Pakistan since 2010, at an unknown location.
This file undated handout photo released to AFP on November 1, 2018 via the UK charity British Pakistani Christian Association shows a portrait of Asia Bibi, who had been on death row in Pakistan since 2010, at an unknown location. (CNN)

The Dutch government said on Thursday it had offered temporary asylum to the lawyer who helped free a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan.

Asia Bibi's lawyer, Saiful Mulook, was offered the chance to stay in the Netherlands for several months, a spokesman for the Foreign Affiars ministry said.

He arrived in the country on Saturday after being forced to flee for his life.

Mulook defended Bibi, a Christian woman, in a case that led to the assassination of two Pakistani politicians.

Asia Bibi released from jail

Bibi, who was acquitted after eight years on death row for blasphemy, was released from jail, but her whereabouts on Thursday remained a closely guarded secret in the wake of demands by religious groups that she be publicly executed.

Earlier reports suggested she was flown out of the country after being released from a prison facility in Multan.

According to the country's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Bibi is still in Pakistan and in protective custody.

Following her acquittal, the hardline Tehreek-e-Labbaik Party (TLP) forced a country-wide shut down as their supporters took to the streets for three days to protest Bibi's release.

The rallies only dispersed after Prime Minister Imran Khan's government promised a court would review a motion to challenge the acquittal and deny Bibi permission to leave Pakistan.

TRT World's Ali Mustafa reports from Islamabad.

The TLP have been demanding Bibi's death as well as the death of the three Supreme Court judges who acquitted her last week.

Scores of protesters were arrested for damaging vehicles and property during the rallies and bank accounts of some of the leaders of the party were reportedly frozen.

Bibi's acquittal initially seemed to bring an end to her ordeal, which began on a blistering hot day in 2009 when 54-year-old mother of five, a farmworker, went to fetch water. 

An argument took place after two fellow women farmworkers refused to drink from the same container as a Christian.

Nearly a week later, the two women said Bibi had insulted the Prophet Muhammad and she was charged with blasphemy, a controversial issue in Pakistan, where mere accusations of blasphemy can cause riots. 

The charge itself carries the death penalty and Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010.

Her case garnered worldwide attention and brought sharp criticism of Pakistan's blasphemy law.

Invitation to Europe

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani invited Bibi and her family to Europe. 

In a letter, Tajani tells Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih, that the European Parliament is "extremely concerned for your safety as well as your family's, due to the violence by extremist elements in Pakistan."

Masih had appealed on Sunday to President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May to help the family leave Pakistan.

Tajani's letter was an indication that Bibi and her family may be leaving for Europe imminently, though their destination has not been confirmed. 

Earlier, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and France had offered her asylum.

Last month, while Bibi was still in custody, Pakistani authorities said they arrested two prisoners for allegedly conspiring to strangle her and since that additional police and troops have been deployed to protect her and her family.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies