01/08/2022, 14.46
PAKISTAN
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Islamabad: Christian accused of blasphemy released on bail

by Shafique Khokhar

In a historic ruling for Pakistan,  Nadeem Samson,  jailed over a rent dispute, has bbeen released on bail. However, the chances of him being found innocent have not increased. According to lawyer Saif ul Malook, the decision could serve as a precedent for other victims.

 

 

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - After four years of detention Nadeem Samson has been released on bail: the appeal filed by his lawyer Saif ul Malook was accepted on January 6 by Pakistan's Supreme Court in a historic decision.

"It is a very important ruling, the first in the judicial history of Pakistan" and one that could serve as a precedent for other victims accused of blasphemy, Malook said in a video call with Jubilee Campaign and Voice for Justice.

Christian Nadeem Samson had been jailed after a dispute over rent downpayment. Pakistan's courts had always regularly rejected appeals for bail for blasphemy victims. Under the Pakistan Penal Code, bail can be granted to some defendants, including those accused of murder, but it had never been granted to someone considered guilty of blasphemy. 

In making the decision, Judge Syed Mansoor Ali Shah referred to Section 497 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, according to which if the trial has not been concluded within two years and the delay is not due to the accused, bail may be granted.

During the appeal hearing on 5 January, lawyer Saif ul Malook had asked the judges to prevent religious sentiment from clouding their judgement. The blasphemy law in Pakistan is used to settle personal matters and is seen as a form of persecution against the country's religious minorities. 

However, this ruling has not increased the chances of Samson being found innocent. 'That is another story,' Malook said. Samson's case is still pending in Lahore District Court and it could take years before it is concluded. Those accused of blasphemy are also at risk of retaliation: in July 2020, American citizen Tahir Naseem was killed by an extremist in a courtroom in Peshawar.

Shaqeel, Nadeem's brother, expressed his gratitude to the lawyer: 'You are an angel Saif Al Malook, because angels work through human beings. You saved my brother like you saved Asia Bibi".

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Ashiknaz Khokhar, a human rights defender in Pakistan, commented on the case saying that "most cases of blasphemy are false and registered as revenge, and false accusations are on the rise against religious minorities. The blasphemy law," he continued, "is ruthlessly exploited by Islamic fanatics to settle scores with rivals and by religious parties to gain political leverage over the administrative apparatus.

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