(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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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."