01/11/2006, 00.00
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Blasphemy charge against Sangla Hill Christian withdrawn

by Peter Jacob

The main accuser admitted that he had made the charge on the basis of "mere suspicion". A reconciliation document has been signed by Christians and Muslims.

Sangla Hill (AsiaNews) – Mohammad Saleem Kalu, the man who had accused Yousaf Masih, a Sangla Hill Christian, of blasphemy, has withdrawn the charge and signed a document declaring the man's innocence. Saleem said he had accused the Christian on the basis of "mere suspicion".

It was the blasphemy charge against Masih, a semi-illiterate agricultural labourer that ignited the rage of a horde of around 2,000 Muslims on 12 November. The mob attacked, destroyed and razed three Christian churches, a convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a Protestant pastor and a Catholic parish priest, a girls' hostel and the homes of some Christians.

On 2 December, leaders of some religious Islamic groups, gathered for Friday prayer, reiterated the Christian's condemnation and called for his public hanging.

After the charge was withdrawn, members of the Christian and Muslim communities signed a "document of peace and reconciliation". Both documents were drawn up on 5 January and signed on 7 January by 20 members of the community, 10 Christian and 10 Muslim.

The legal value of the documents has yet to be assessed but without any doubt, the innocence of Masih has been established. The papers also help to clarify any doubts in the inquiry – still under way – into the violence on 12 November.

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