08/24/2017, 15.20
PAKISTAN
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For Justice and Peace Commission, Indrias Masih was left to die by his jailers because he was Christian

by Shafique Khokhar

The prisoner died from "the negligence and insensitivity" of the police and Lahore’s Central Jail. He had been arrested for allegedly taking part in the lynching of two suspected terrorists. He could have saved his life by reneging his faith but he chose not to deny Christianity.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Poor sanitary conditions of the jail and the negligence of the prison administration are the factors that led to the death on 13 August in Lahore’s Central Jail of Indrias Masih (also known as Ghulam), a 38-year-old Christian, this according to the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP).

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Catholic advocacy group notes that Mr Masih was left to die because he was a Christian. For this reason, NCJP leaders want the case to be treated as homicide.

Although from a medical point of view, Masih died from gastrointestinal tuberculosis, the Pakistani Church has other ideas. His death “was the result of negligence on the part of prison authorities, inhuman conditions, and the consumption of unclean water and food”.

Masih had been held since 2015 on charges of lynching two alleged terrorists after the Taliban attacked two churches in Youhanabad (Lahore) in March of the same year, which resulted in the deaths of 19 people and the wounding of another 70.

He was among 42 Christian prisoners whom Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah had tried to bribe by offering to release them on condition of reneging Christ. Masih could have saved his life, but instead he decided to bear witness to his faith unto death.

Masih had three children and was the youngest of six siblings. Prior to his arrest, he supported the whole family. In fact, to give his children hope in a better future, he had moved from Bahawalpur to Lahore five years ago to earn just 7,000 rupees a month (US$ 65).

According to his family, he had always enjoyed excellent health before his arrest and had never shown any sign of illness.

“It was upsetting that a falsely accused young man died due to negligence and poor medical facilities provided by the jail authorities,” said Cecil Shane Chaudhry, NCJP executive director. “Belonging to the minority community further increases their miseries and the attitude towards such persons is even more biased and discriminatory”.

“The court should show mercy to these poor people,” said Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, NCJP national director. “They’ve been suffering in jail for a very long time. Many of the accused are having a hard time holding onto their marriage while their children eagerly wait for their fathers’ return”.

At the last hearing, on 2 June, Fr Many said, he pointed out Masih's already poor health, but the court did not consider it necessary to place him in a proper hospital. In view of this, he urges the "government and the judiciary to take a strong action against the prison authorities for ill treatment and inhuman behaviour towards the prisoners."

For his part, NCJP president and Bishop of Faisalabad Mgr Joseph Arshad is praying "for the soul of the deceased. May Almighty God give the family the hope and strength to endure this terrible loss. "

“Police are often inconsiderate towards the sick and needy,” the prelate noted, “whereas all human beings are equal and thus deserve to be treated equally and with human dignity.”

The statement ends with specific demands on the government and the judiciary:

prison authorities should be held accountable for the substandard conditions, lack of medical facilities and insensitivity towards prisoners in jail which cost a young man his life;

courts should take into account current medical and hygiene conditions provided in prisons and impose exemplary justice on perpetrators;

owing to the conditions in which the accused are currently held, courts should grant bail on compassionate grounds so that precious lives may be saved from such negligence and bias;

courts should ensure speedy justice for the victims arrested as a result of Youhanabad lynching incident;

Indrias Masih's death was the result of negligence on the part of police and prison authorities; therefore, his family (wife and children) must be receive due compensation. 

(Kamran Chaudhry contributed to this article)

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