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  • » 12/28/2011, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    After blasphemy charges against him are dropped, Christian prays for other believers in prison

    Shafique Khokhar

    Rehmat Masih was arrested on 19 June 2010. He had come to the defence of Christians in a quarrel with a Muslim over land. On 18 November 2011, a court dismissed his case for lack of evidence.
    Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – “Christians must continue to pray because other people are in prison for their faith,” Rehmat Masih, 74, from Jhumra, in Faisalabad (Punjab), told AsiaNews. Arrested in June 2010 on blasphemy charges, he was released on 28 November of this year, after 18 months in prison, for lack of evidence.

    It all began on 19 May 2010 when a quarrel broke between local Christians and a Muslim leader, Tahir Hameed, who wanted to take away some plots of land that belonged to the local Christian community.

    A month later to the day, Tahir Hameed’s brother Sajid, who was not present when the dispute broke out, filed a complaint against Rehmat Masih based on Muslim witnesses claiming that the Christian man had insulted the prophet Muhammad.

    After months of investigation, a Faisalabad court dismissed the witnesses’ depositions. It ruled that their statements were filed too late and that they were full of contradictions. It also found that that no police officer visited the place where the alleged incident took place to collect evidence against the accused.

    “We appreciate the court’s ruling that found Rehmat Masih innocent,” said Fr Nisar Barkat, diocesan director of the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP). In his view, Muslims too often use the blasphemy law against minorities in matters unrelated to religion.

    Introduced in 1986 under the dictatorial rule of General Zia ul-Haq, the blasphemy law has been followed by an exponential growth in complaints about the “desecration of the Qur‘an” and the “defamation of the prophet Muhammad”.

    By comparison, between 1927 and 1986, only seven cases of blasphemy were filed. Since 1986, more than 4,000 people have been accused, a number that keeps rising.

    Between 1988 and 2005, Pakistani authorities have taken 647 people to court on blasphemy charges.

    All in all, thousands of Christians, Muslims, Ahmadis and members of other religions have been accused without a shred of evidence, including Asia Bibi who was sentenced to death and is waiting for her appeal to be heard.
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    See also

    05/04/2007 PAKISTAN
    Life of 11-year-old Christian in danger even though he is not charged with anything
    Blasphemy accusations have been made against five Christians, the youngest a 16-year-old, after a quarrel between boys that was blamed on the 11-year-old. Local Christians are afraid that he might become the target of violence.

    11/11/2013 PAKISTAN
    Lahore: life of Christian pastor accused of blasphemy in danger
    An outlawed extremist organisation, Jamat-ul-Dawa, issues a fatwa against Adnan Masih. As a result of a misunderstanding, the Christian man has been accused of insulting Muhammad and Islam. As police investigates, the clergyman and his family are under their protection. A local priest notes that this is "the third case of persecution against Christians based on the blasphemy law in just two months."

    28/09/2006 PAKISTAN
    Christian jailed on blasphemy charges receives support from his family
    In relating their visit to young Shahid Masih, relatives says he is holding up well. They encouraged him to be strong but are afraid of what Muslim extremists might do. The teenager's defence attorney is demanding a more thorough investigation into the case.

    17/04/2009 PAKISTAN
    Lahore High Court clears two Christians of blasphemy charges
    James and Buta Masih had been imprisoned since 2006 on charges of burning a copy of the Qur'an in the street. The court has declared the charges unfounded, and has ordered their release. A Catholic priest calls for the repeal of the law on blasphemy, which he calls "killer."

    11/10/2006 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad bishop: "Justice for two Catholics accused of blasphemy"

    Mgr Joseph Coutts has called on the Pakistani authorities to ensure a proper high level investigation into the case of James and Buta Masih, accused without proof or witnesses. The local press has been accused of seeking to foment extremist hatred.





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