Christian charged with blasphemy freed after two years
by Qaiser Felix
Shahbaz Masih Kaka is mentally disabled, but a court in Faisalabad sentenced him to 25 years. Pressures from Islamic extremists are to blame.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – The High Court in Lahore last Friday ordered the release of Shahbaz Masih Kaka, a mentally disabled Christian sentenced to 25 years by a Faisalabad Court on blasphemy charges. Judges in Lahore found him instead not guilty and set him free. Mr Masih Kaka has already spent 18 months in jail.

Defence attorney Khalil Tahir told AsiaNews that “even during the first trial, the defence had presented evidence demonstrating Mr Masih’s innocence from blasphemy charges, but Judge Shahid Rafiq bowed to pressure from Islamic extremists and on September 25, 2004, imposed a long sentence”.

Mr Tahir heads Adal Trust, a Catholic NGO that provides legal assistance to those in need.  He added that he had “submitted medical records showing that Masih suffered from mental illness but that was simply ignored”.

Shahbaz Masih was arrested in June 2001 for allegedly tearing some pages from a copy of the Qur’an in the school yard of an Islamic school. A Muslim cleric, Qari Mohammed Rafiq, took him to the police where he testified that he saw Masih step on pages of the holy book in front of school children.

Masih was charged under Section 295, A and B, of the Penal Code, better known as the blasphemy laws. Desecrating Islam’s Holy Scriptures is punishable by life in prison. However, the accusations were found not be credible.

“Now,” Masih’s lawyer said, “we must take Shahbaz to hospital. Once he is treated, he can go home.”