07/06/2016, 18.04
PAKISTAN
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Forty-two Pakistani Christians acquitted of terrorism charges

A Christian NGO successfully defended the pastor and 41 members of the Christian Life Ministries, a Faisalabad-based Church, who had been arrested on false charges. Their crime was to have saved two young men from police brutality. Whilst in prison, the pastor and the other men were tortured in an appalling manner. Police are now under investigation for corruption.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – False charges of terrorism have been dropped against a group of 42 Christians, and the police who arrested them are now under investigation for corruption, thanks to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), an organisation that defends Pakistan’s Christian minority.

The Lahore High Court filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the head of the Gulberg police station and other officers who used unnecessary violence and unlawfully arrested Christians under the country’s anti-terrorism laws.

BPCA’S lawyer Rana Hafeezhas successfully proved the Christians’ innocence. The case began in May when some police officers arrested Rev Chaughtai Kamal, a former member of the Punjab Assembly and head of the Christian Life Ministries, a Protestant Church in Christian Town, a Faisalabad neighbourhood, as well as 41 other Christians, on charges of terrorism.

Events had begun a few hours earlier, in front of the church, as a religious service was underway inside. The pastor and his congregation rushed out of the building when they heard the screams of two young men who were being brutally beaten by police.

The Christians stopped the beating but were all arrested and taken to prison, including women and children (pictured). The pastor and the other men were subjected to appalling tortures whilst in custody.

As a result of the beating, the clergyman had to be hospitalised with hypertension for two days. “This would not happen in any other country,” the pastor said. “We simply tried to stop two young men from being killed by police before our very eyes.”

Police chief Waheed Shahid and the other police officers tried to clear themselves by claiming that they had gone to search the church because they had been tipped off that illegal alcoholics were being made there.

However, no evidence of illegal alcoholic drink making was produced, and the officers’ petition for a stay order was dismissed. The Lahore High Court instead ordered an investigation into police conduct.

BPCA president Wilson Chowdhry was happy about the outcome. “It is rare for Christians to get justice in a country that considers them pariahs (outcasts, untouchables).”

“During the court hearing, police officers’ behaviour was such that now they are under investigation for corruption. The evidence on the excessive use of violence, the absence of equipment to make alcoholic beverages, and the detention of women and children are enough for universal condemnation.”

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