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    » 12/03/2012, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Punjab: 22-year-old mentally disturbed Christian man dies in prison

    Jibran Khan

    For police, he died from a sudden illness. Priests and activists call for justice and an investigation. Like Rimsha Masih, the victim suffered from mental illness and was thrown in jail on the basis of unsubstantiated charges. After a week since he was taken into custody, police had not yet started the investigation.

    Islamabad (AsiaNews) - A young Christian man, Nadeem Masih, was suddenly taken ill overnight on 1 December and died in prison. The mentally disturbed man been imprisoned on trumped-up blasphemy charges, this according the official police report. However, many elements in the case remain obscure, starting with the charges.

    Nadeem Masih was accused of breaking Pakistan's 'black law' by a local resident, backed by a group of Islamists, whose complaint appear fabricated in more ways than one like the accusation levelled against Rimsha Masih, the 14-year-old Christian girl who fortunately was released after blasphemy charges against her were dropped.

    However, the fate of the 22-year-old man is different. Despite the absence of an investigation or even actual evidence against him, he died in police custody.

    Nadeem Masih was from Nankana Sahib, a town in Punjab. He was mentally disturbed. On 22 November, he was put in jail after he was accused of burning some pages of the Qur'an. He remained in custody for days despite the lack of evidence against him. Early reports suggest that police had not even started their investigations because of the absence of elements against him.

    In a statement, police said he was placed in custody to guarantee him "greater safety" against possible reprisals by extremists should he be released. However, he died overnight on 1 December under unusual circumstances. For the agents, he suddenly felt ill and died.

    Conversely, Christian activists and lawyers are saying that he was in "good health" and that he was beaten to death in his cell. Such a possibility is not easily dismissed since another young Christian man, Robert Fanish Masih, also from Punjab, was killed in prison.

    Nadeem Masih's body has been returned to the family, but lawyers want an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

    The young man's father, Yousaf Masih, has not made any statement on the matter and appears unwilling to pursue it any further, perhaps out of fear of retaliation.

    Some local Muslim religious leaders did come in Nadeem's defence, believing him to be innocent.

    "This is indeed an unfortunate incident," said Fr Arif John from the Lahore Diocese. "A mentally unstable young man dies in police custody. The authorities should investigate the circumstances under which he passed away. The allegation of blasphemy should not be used to kill the people."

    Fr Kamran John agrees. "The young man was illegally detained for over a week" without charges. This worsened his mental state. "This is a patent violation of human rights; his death should be investigated thoroughly."

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    See also

    09/05/2011 PAKISTAN
    Young, mentally ill Christian man arrested for blasphemy in Punjab
    Babar Masih, 25, allegedly used abusive language in regards to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslim religious leaders allegedly put pressures on people to make “false statements” about him. Police arrested him to prevent him from being lynched. The young man’s family has had to flee for fear of reprisals.

    28/08/2012 PAKISTAN
    Blasphemy, Rimsha Masih, minor with mental problems. Bishop of Islamabad: a positive outcome
    This was established by the medical committee; court hearing postponed to August 30. Christian activists call for the reform of the "black law". Muslim groups defend the girl and hope for her acquittal of all charges. Muslim leader: another "symbol", to be used to end the "injustice" and "climate of fear".

    22/01/2007 PAKISTAN
    Christian charged with blasphemy freed after two years
    Shahbaz Masih Kaka is mentally disabled, but a court in Faisalabad sentenced him to 25 years. Pressures from Islamic extremists are to blame.

    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.

    29/10/2013 PAKISTAN
    Karachi: Christian family faced with blasphemy and forced conversion threats
    In September, the head of the family, Boota Masih, a 58-yeaer-old goldsmith, was killed, falsely accused of blasphemy. In fact, a business rival was behind the murder, and he is still free and unpunished. Meanwhile, armed men have threatened the victim's family, telling them to convert to Islam or face death. Police however have arrested these men.



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