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    » 05/09/2011, 00.00

    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.

    Lahore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law strikes the country’s Christian community again. This time, police in Chichawatni, Sahiwal District, Punjab, charged and arrested a mentally ill Christian man “for offending the religious sentiments” of Muslims. They also saved him from a mob bent on carrying out summary justice. Babar Masih, 25, allegedly used abusive language in regards to the Prophet Muhammad. Three of his relatives have already fled their home after receiving serious threats. The Masihs where the only Christians living in the area and are now in hiding for fear of reprisals at the hands of Muslim extremists.

    Police opened an investigation against the mentally ill Babar Masih on the basis of the ‘black law’. On 2 May, they arrested him for making blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. Local Christian sources said that the young man’s own family alerted police who arrested him in secret.

    A mob of angry Muslims had gathered near the Masih family home. The other members of the family feared he might be summarily executed. Indeed, Muslim extremists had demanded the mentally ill man be handed over to them so that justice could be done. Thanks to the police, Babar was spirited away. In the meantime, his family found shelter in a secret hideout.

    Babar’s brother Amjad said that some local Muslim religious leaders had pressured people to bear false witness against him. His mental status is widely known, and in the past, he has had fits of unmotivated anger during which he has used offensive language. He is also known for not eating or dressing properly. He was, in other words, an “easy target” for preposterous accusations based on the infamous blasphemy law.

    Christian leaders in the province have tried to mediate with the local imam trying to find a way to have the charges withdrawn. However, extremists have no intention to do that.

    Despite complaints from the international community about abuses, the ‘black law’ appears to be on the verge of taking another victim from the Christian minority.

    Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, and Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were assassinated in cold blood earlier this year because they sought changes if not the repeal of the law.

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    See also

    03/12/2012 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: 22-year-old mentally disturbed Christian man dies in prison
    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.

    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.

    29/11/2006 PAKISTAN
    Naseem Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, free after nine months
    The 30-year-old woman, who is mentally disabled, was arrested after person or persons unknown reported her for allegedly desecrating an Islamic image. She is the second person charged with blasphemy to be released in a month.

    19/09/2006 PAKISTAN
    Young Christian arrested for blasphemy

    There are no witnesses or evidence against him. The charge violates the law because it is based on the statement of someone accused of committing the crime together with the boy.



    06/12/2011 PAKISTAN
    Lahore, false accusation of blasphemy against a Christian. Fears for his life
    A builder of 25 has been falsely accused of having ripped and burned pages of the Koran by a Muslim known for his hatred toward non-Muslims. The police registered the complaint despite the intervention of religious leaders. Fanatic groups threaten to kill him.



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