12/16/2009, 00.00
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Faisalabad, two Christians imprisoned for blasphemy released

by Fareed Khan
Gulsher Masih and his daughter Sandal were indicted for allegedly ripping some pages of the Koran. The story fabricated by a group of extremists, incited by mosques in the village. Human rights activist: discriminatory laws and the mentality of people need to be changed.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Gulsher Masih and his daughter Sandal, from a village near Faisalabad, indicted and arrested on charges of blasphemy against Islam in October last year, were released on December 14. Khalil Tahir, Gulsher and Sandal’s lawyer, confirmed the ruling of the court in Faisalabad to AsiaNews.

The two Christians were accused of blasphemy under Article 295 paragraph B of the Pakistan Penal Code October 9, 2008. They were charged with having torn some pages from the Koran in the village of Tehsil Chak Jhumra, located in the district of Faisalabad.  

Some Muslims who were walking near the Gulsher home accused Masih and his daughter Sandal of "having torn pages of the Koran and thrown them on the street". The story spread among the mosques of the village, sparking the revolt of an angry mob. Residents of neighbouring villages also took part in the assault, marching with torches to the village, shouting "Death to blasphemers”.

The crowd began throwing stones at the walls of the Gulsher house and hit doors and windows with sticks. They also hurled rocks at an adjacent Protestant church. After months of suffering, the two Christians were declared innocent: the judge Raja Mohammad Ghazanfer dropped all charges and ordered their immediate release.   

Khalil Tahir, a Christian MP and lawyer, told AsiaNews that "although it is very difficult to defend Christians accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, thank God I was able to successfully demonstrate their extraneousness to the facts. All charges against them were groundless, because based on personal disagreements. "    

Tahir is the director of Action Against Discriminatory Laws (Adal), non-governmental organization that provides free legal assistance. He adds that "the problem is not only the discriminatory laws," but also "the use of the norm for personal purposes, we must work hard - he concludes - in both directions, to eliminate discriminatory laws and to change people’s mentality”.  

According to data collected by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church of Pakistan, from 1986 to August 2009, at least 964 people have been charged under the blasphemy law: among these 479 were Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis , 14 Hindu and 10 of unknown religion. There have been at least 33 extra-judicial killings, committed by individuals or angry crowds. Last on this sad list is Fanish, who died last September, for whom Christians are still waiting for justice.


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