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  • » 01/22/2007, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Christian charged with blasphemy freed after two years

    Qaiser Felix

    Shahbaz Masih Kaka is mentally disabled, but a court in Faisalabad sentenced him to 25 years. Pressures from Islamic extremists are to blame.

    Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – The High Court in Lahore last Friday ordered the release of Shahbaz Masih Kaka, a mentally disabled Christian sentenced to 25 years by a Faisalabad Court on blasphemy charges. Judges in Lahore found him instead not guilty and set him free. Mr Masih Kaka has already spent 18 months in jail.

    Defence attorney Khalil Tahir told AsiaNews that “even during the first trial, the defence had presented evidence demonstrating Mr Masih’s innocence from blasphemy charges, but Judge Shahid Rafiq bowed to pressure from Islamic extremists and on September 25, 2004, imposed a long sentence”.

    Mr Tahir heads Adal Trust, a Catholic NGO that provides legal assistance to those in need.  He added that he had “submitted medical records showing that Masih suffered from mental illness but that was simply ignored”.

    Shahbaz Masih was arrested in June 2001 for allegedly tearing some pages from a copy of the Qur’an in the school yard of an Islamic school. A Muslim cleric, Qari Mohammed Rafiq, took him to the police where he testified that he saw Masih step on pages of the holy book in front of school children.

    Masih was charged under Section 295, A and B, of the Penal Code, better known as the blasphemy laws. Desecrating Islam’s Holy Scriptures is punishable by life in prison. However, the accusations were found not be credible.

    “Now,” Masih’s lawyer said, “we must take Shahbaz to hospital. Once he is treated, he can go home.”

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    See also

    27/04/2007 PAKISTAN
    Mob and police torture Catholic man accused of blasphemy
    Without any evidence angry Muslims torture Sattar Masih, 28, for allegedly blaspheming against Muhammad. Police moves in but only to arrest him. He was supposed to get married the following day.

    26/01/2007 PAKISTAN
    Another Christian imprisoned for “blasphemy”
    Following an altercation, a man who owed money to a Christian woman accuses her of insulting the prophet Muhammad, an offence that also carries the death penalty. She was taken into custody by the police. Minority rights group blames Islamic extremists for using the law to strike at religious minorities or anyone who dare oppose them.

    13/10/2008 PAKISTAN
    A Christian man and his daughter arrested, almost lynched for blasphemy
    Rumours spread in a village near Faisalabad that a Christian girl ripped some pages from the Qur’an. But more than one version of the facts is making the rounds of the village. Anti-Christian intolerance is growing in the country and a Pakistani lawmaker says the “accusations are a fabrication” to persecute Christians.

    21/06/2006 PAKISTAN
    Government silent as blasphemy law continues to kill, say Pakistani bishops
    In a statement released by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops' Conference of Pakistan the government's negligence vis-à-vis crimes committed in the name of religion and on the basis of blasphemy laws is described as a "real sin".

    28/03/2007 PAKISTAN
    Muslims torture for hours Christian “blasphemer” now in jail
    A mob of some 150 Muslims in Punjab stormed the home of Amanat Masih, a Protestant charged with burning some pages of the Qur’an. Police intervene after hours of torture and arrest him.



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