”Blasphemous” Christian freed after a year: he was innocent.
by Qaiser Felix
Shahid Masih, 18, was imprisoned in September 2006 accused of having blasphemed Islam. His presumed accomplice, a Muslim released on caution nine months ago, also absolved. The Christian’s mother died from heartbreak following his arrest.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) –A Pakistani Appeals court yesterday ordered the release of the Christian Shahid Masih – 18, in prison since 2006 on blasphemy charges – and declared him “totally innocent” of the charges.  The same verdict for his presumed accomplice, Muhammad Ghaffar, Muslim, freed 9 months ago.

 

The two boys were reported by Dr. Arshad Masood, Muslim, who declared that they tore pages from the Koran he kept in his clinic for study at night time, when he was not in the clinic. The accusation comes under art. 295-b of the Pakistani penal code, the infamous blasphemy law, which punishes those who desecrate Mohammad or Islam’s sacred texts with prison or even death.

 

Munawar Masih, father of Shahid Masih talking to AsiaNews said “I can not express my feelings in words today; simply I am very happy as well as sad because Shahid’s mother is no more in this world to celebrate this happy moment with us”.

 

Khalil Tahir, chairman Adal Trust [Christian legal aid centre] and Masih’s defence attorney arranged a small Thanks giving celebration at Trust’s office in Faisalabad. Fr. Aftab James Paul, director in Faisalabad diocese for Interfaith Dialogue and Ecumenism, led prayers of thanksgiving.

 

The priest told AsiaNews that “almost all blasphemy cases are false and fabricated and this has been proved in many cases already so this law should be abolished because this law is not merely targeting the religious minorities of the country but also is a huge hindrance in the way of interfaith dialogue”.

 

Lawyer Tahir was harsher in his condemnation: “Although Masih has been proved innocent, those responsible for his and his family’s mental torture and above all for the death of his poor mother, roam large.  This authorises other people to do the same”.

 

The Adal Trust chairman also requested prayers for James Masih 70 and Buta Masih 65, two Catholic old men from Faisalabad who were accused of burning pages of Koran last year. Both were awarded 10 years imprisonment each in November 2006“.Both the old men are sick in the jail” Tahir concluded “We are waiting for the date of appeal which is going to be fixing in Lahore High court soon, but in the meantime we must pray.”

 

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