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PAKISTAN – Christians imprisoned for blasphemy fear an extrajudicial murder

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Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – Four Christians accused and arrested for alleged blasphemy are in danger of being killed in an extrajudicial killing. As Fides learns, Protestant Pastor Aftab Gill, Unatan Gill and two other Christians currently detained in the central prison of Punjab, should appear in court on October 16, but the court has refused to provide them an escort. Family members fear that, in the transfer, they can be killed by the radicals.

The four are accused of insulting Islam by publishing, on the occasion of a funeral, some posters in which the word “rasool” (Urdu: Apostle) was used which is an attribute of the Prophet Muhammad (see Fides 20/08/2015). A month ago the court denied the release of the Christians, but granted bail to Muslim printmaker who printed the posters. The NGO CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement) says that “the judge was biased because the term ‘rasool’ is found in the Bible in Urdu and Christians had no blasphemous intention”.

Imtiaz Shakir, Muslim lawyer who defends Christians in court, told Fides: “The trial is an exaggeration, one is abusing the word rasool, which in Urdu means messenger. The accusation is preposterous, the whole system is biased, local authorities are looking for an opportunity for another extrajudicial killing”. “My religion – Shakir continues – does not allow me to endorse such injustice: these innocent people are suffering because of a misunderstanding of Islam. This is a failure of the judicial system and an abuse of power. Not only Christians but all Pakistani citizens who believe in the rule of law and justice should speak out to defend these innocent people”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 01/10/2015)

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