11/13/2012, 00.00
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Faisalabad: Christian family jailed on false charges of kidnapping

by Shafique Khokhar
A poor laborer and family man calls for the release of three relatives in jail for months for alleged involvement in a kidnapping. The story originated from the romantic extramarital elopement of one of his children, with a Muslim girl. Behind the complaints, the attempt to deprive Sharif Masih of his properties. NCJP in defense of the accused.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Sharif Masih, a poor Christian laborer from Faisalabad, is demanding justice for the arbitrary arrest of some members of his family, according to investigators involved in alleged cases of kidnapping, but in fact innocent. Activists of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church of Pakistan (NCJP) are helping the man by providing legal protection and are committed to bringing out the truth in court. The goal is to give full freedom to three young Christians locked up in a prison for months for a crime they did not commit. More critical, however, the position of another young Christian man - also a member of the family - the protagonist, late December 2011, of an "elopement" with a Muslim girl, the real culprit of the alleged abduction case.

The story begins December 27, 2011, when the 28-year old Christian Babar Masih, a native of Gojra (Punjab) and married, ran away with a 25 year old Muslim named Nabeela, in what appears to be an "elopement" the result of a extramarital affair. After two days in a sister -in-law's house, the two took refuge in Sheikhupura, near Lahore, where man is a worker. In the city, where they lived for about a month, they told neighbors they were a married couple. In the first week of February 2012 Nabeela's father, Abdul Shakoor, found out where his daughter was and - informed by some people - also finds out that the young Christian was going to sell her to strangers. The parent intervenes, taking the girl and bringing her home with him.

Police, alerted by the father, opened an investigation against Gojra Babar, Amir Masih's brother, his two brothers-in-law, Patras Masih and Masih Dilber. The girl testified against them, claiming to have been kidnapped and hidden in an unknown place. Meanwhile, some people - Muhammad Aslam and other Muslims in the village - have made other accusations against the Christian family, denouncing the components for other kidnappings of young people in the past. Among them, the daughter of Muhammad Aslam, of which there has been no news for two years.

Investigators thus investigated and placed under house arrest 55 year-old Sharif Masih's three daughters and their husbands: Babar, Patras, Dilber and Amir Masih, along with their wives Najia Bibi, Bibi and Bushra Nusrat Bibim the latter pregnant at the time of detention. At the end of August, the head of the family turned to the NCJP activists, who after a long legal dispute have secured the release of women appealing to the High Court in Lahore, while the males of the family are still in prison.

Interviewed by AsiaNews Sharif Masih says that "Babar Masih is involved in the case, but all the other people were arrested on false charges." He adds that the alleged offender "should be tried according to the law," but "all the others released as innocent." Among the reasons for the dispute, he points out that there are a group of Muslims who "want to take possession of my house." "I'm really grateful to the NCJP activists - he ends - for their legal assistance." Fr. Bonnie Mendes, a priest in Faisalabad also calls for a just punishment for the young Christian and alleged kidnapper, should he be proven guilty, according to whom Babar Masih's "three relatives" "do not appear to be involved" and therefore should be released. "I'm happy there are groups such as NCJP - he says - that fight alongside the victims of injustice."


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