07/06/2006, 00.00
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Pakistani bishop: "Don't forget Javed Anjum, killed for refusing to deny Christ"

The bishop of Faisalabad has urged the world to keep its eyes on the trial of one of the torturers of the 19-year-old Catholic. The trial is in danger of being suppressed because of threats by Muslims against the lawyer and his family.

Lisbon (AsiaNews) – The bishop of Faisalabad has urged the international community "not to forget the case of Javed Anjum, the youth who was killed for refusing to deny Christ". He said "attention must remain focused on the trial, which is in danger of being suppressed because of threats and violence by Islamic integralists against the lawyer and the youth's family".

The bishop, Mgr Joseph Coutts, made his appeal last week during the presentation in Lisbon of the 2006 report on religious freedom published by the Aid to the Church in Need.

In March, 23 months after the homicide, the trial of two of his three murderers wound up and Ghulam Rasool and Muhammad Tayab were sentenced to 25 years in jail. Umar Hayat, the Islamic cleric and rector of the madrassa [Islamic school] where the crime took place, is the third presumed assassin. He was arrested in January after 22 months on the run, and the verdict against him is pending.

In April 2004, the three men tortured the boy for five whole days in a bid to force him to convert to Islam. When their persecution proved to be in vain, they handed Javed over to the police and made false accusations against him. His injuries were so severe that medical treatment was to no avail. The boy died on 2 May in a state hospital in Faisalabad: his medical report states that the Christian died "of 26 serious injuries resulting from torture".

At this death bed, Javed identified one of his persecutors, Rasool, who was arrested immediately: under interrogation, he named Tayyab and Umar as his accomplices.

"The rector of the madrassa in Toba is being prosecuted as the man most responsible for the torture that killed Javed," said Mgr Coutts. "Recently however, the prosecuting lawyer, who is being supported by our Church, has received threats against himself, his wife, and his three young children." As a result of these threats, which have become increasingly frequent and dangerous, the lawyer's family has fled to the southern part of the country.

The bishop continued: "We must keep up the pressure for justice. These Islamic groups are very powerful. They can make a murder look like an accident. We must not give in: they must admit the horror of their crime."

"According to the Islamic faith, it is a sin to bring about a conversion by compulsion. But those who committed this crime, they believe this violence against a youth is a key to heaven. They must understand they have done something wrong," added Mgr Coutts.

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