» 02/21/2012, 00.00
Police in Rawalpindi clears Abid Malik of charges in the Bhatti murder case
After issuing an international warrant that led to his arrest in the United Arab Emirates, police decides there is a "lack of evidence" against the Malik, who should be released shortly. The other suspect, Zia ur-Rehman, is still at large. For Islamabad bishop, the police is using "delaying tactics". For him, "justice delayed is justice denied."
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Abid Malik, one of the two suspects in the murder
of Shahbaz Bhatti, was cleared of the charges laid against him and is expected
to be released shortly. In today's hearing before the Anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi,
police said they had no evidence of his guilt. He had been arrested on request
of Pakistani authorities a few days ago in the United Arab Emirates with the
help of Interpol and then repatriated to stand trial. The other suspect, Zia-ur-Rehman,
is still at large. For Catholic leaders, it is increasingly clear that
investigators are trying to delay things and do not intend to punish the authors
of the crime.
The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Minority Affairs minister
and a Catholic, is still shrouded in mystery. He was shot 30 times on 2 March
2011 in Islamabad. Muslim fundamentalist groups are suspected because they had threatened
his life in the past for his fight against the country's blasphemy legislation.
Since the murder, several attempts have been made to mislead the
investigation, with suggestions that Bhatti was killed in a personal vendetta
or a family feud, not in connection with his political activity, something that
Catholic leaders have always denounced (see Jibran Khan, "Assassination
of Shahbaz Bhatti: new falsehoods from the police," in AsiaNews, 17 July 2011, and "Smoke
screen and false news to hide Shahbaz Bhatti's assassins," in AsiaNews, 9 August 2011).
In today's court hearing, police said that, following Malik's
interrogation, no evidence emerged about his responsibility. He was not
involved in the murder, a charge he always denied, and should be released
shortly. Others previously held in connection with the case were equally freed.
The two suspects, Zia-ur-Rehman and Abid Malik, are thought to be former
Faisalabad Christian converts to Islam who had a monetary dispute with the
Hafiz Nazar, a former Protestant clergyman, had accused them. He was
detained after his phone was wiretapped and he was heard talking about their "involvement".
However, during his interrogation, Nazar turned out to be "mentally unstable"
and not a reliable witness.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad
and a personal friend to Shahbaz, said, "This is another delaying tactic". In the
end, "Justice delayed is justice denied".
For the prelate, the police are to blame. They are just toying with
people, spreading rumours and arresting people in order to show that they are
"We demand the arrest of the real culprits," the bishop said. Instead,
the "Police is letting Malik off the hook."
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