03/12/2015, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Lahore, 20 year old Christian tortured and killed by police

Zubair Masih was violently beaten while held overnight in police custody. He was arrested along with some relatives, after a Muslim accused his mother of theft. Mobilization of activists and civil society opens investigation against police. Little hope the Christian family will obtain justice.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Pakistani police tortured a young Christian to death after his mother had been previously accused of stealing gold from her employer, a Muslim.

According to investigators the woman was charged with having stolen gold items from the house of Abdul Jabar, where she worked as a maid for less than $ 20 a month.

The 20 year old Zubair Masih was taken away by a group of agents who were investigating the theft report against his mother, Ayesha Bibi. However, the young man, unlike other relatives, was detained and died in the hours following his arrest while still in the custody of law enforcement officers.

The incident occurred in Lahore, Punjab, and according to preliminary reports provided by CLAAS (Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement), the young man was "violently tortured throughout the night" by the police. The next morning his lifeless body, was "dumped in front of his parents' house".

The charge of theft lodged against Ayesha (pictured) by Jabbar, has been strongly denied by the woman. One evening the Muslim employer together with a retinue of policemen raided her home, accusing her of stealing gold worth just over $ 350.

The police beat and detained the woman, then dragged her to her brother Arshad Masih, with whom her two sons lived.  According to the Muslim employer, Ayesha handed them over the stolen goods, while she continued to proclaim her innocence.

Jabbar began to beat Ayesha, under the indifferent eyes of the police; then the agents took the whole family, to the nearby police station to continue their interrogation. During the long hours of questioning the agents repeatedly used violence and torture against the Christian family, fracturing the woman's arm. Later the police released all the family, except Zubair.

The family feared for the fate of the young man, because often the police use violence during interrogations, especially against Christians. And the fears proved well founded when, on the morning of March 6, they found the body of 20 year old in front of their door. Doctors confirmed that the death occurred as a result of torture.

For two days the family protested outside the police station. Later under pressure from activists and civil society, on March 8, investigators opened an investigation against an officer and three agents. Despite promises of justice, most likely the story will end with a paltry monetary compensation to the family while the policemen will remain unpunished.

With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia.

About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).

Scores of violent incidents have occurred in recent years, against entire communities (Gojra in 2009, and Joseph Colony, Lahore, in March 2013), places of worship (Peshawar, September last year) and individuals ( Sawan Masih, Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih and Robert Fanish Masih, who died in prison), often perpetrated under the pretext of the country's blasphemy laws.

 

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