VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Pakistan

Persecuted Christians in Thailand being denied asylum

Pakistani Christian asylum seekers brought to court caged in police van in Dec. 2015

(Voice of the Persecuted) The early church faced much persecution but continued to thrive; today, the persecution exists at an even greater scale.

Matthew 5:11 states, “Blessed are those that are persecuted.”

Many Pakistani Christians who’ve fled to Thailand are very familiar with ongoing aggressions against them. They’re stuck in a limbo after being sucked in a whirlpool of discrimination, persecution and incarceration, all due to their faith in Christ Jesus.

Thousands of persecuted Pakistani Christian brothers and sisters in Thailand sought refuge in UNHCR Thailand. After years of waiting and suffering the brutal incarceration in the Immigration Detention Centre, many of them have been rejected by the UNHCR, with very little chance of getting refugee status through appeals.

Two of our families, that have been part of the Voice of the Persecuted relief project in Thailand, were recently rejected by the UNHCR. Many of you may remember John, a little boy who was brought to us malnourished and very sick. His family has been rejected based on what the UNHCR considers insufficient information to explain the level of threat they would have faced if they had stayed in Pakistan. John’s family maintains their stance of death upon return and have appealed against the decision of UNHCR with hopes of getting a positive result.

Jackson’s family was rejected in the beginning of June. They, like others who’ve been denied asylum, were given 30 days for appeal. The young father is on bail from the IDC and is worried that his appeal would be instantly cancelled and he would have to return to the IDC, estranged from his wife and 1-year old son. Jackson has made a very hard choice to go back to Pakistan as the UNHCR promised to give him airfare and $100 each if they decide to be repatriated. However, this offer would be void if Jackson appeals against the UNHCR decision.

Sadly, the majority of Christian asylum seekers have had little or no luck with their appeals. Majority of them have been rejected and their files have been closed, their UNHCR cards taken away and they are left hopeless to survive on their own in a ruthless country.

Before mid-2015, many Christians were freed on a bail bond of $1400 each, on reason for their registration with UNHCR and further conditions were added including ineligibility to work and reporting to the prison every 15 days. After the UNHCR started rejecting cases, for many it meant that their bails would be cancelled and they are required to return inside the IDC with their children and elders.

Many are opting to go back to Pakistan and risk their lives in a desperate effort to survive. In April, a woman named Asia Johnson sadly went back to Pakistan. Voice of the Persecuted had been able to pay her overstay fine in December 2015 and subsequently she was bailed with the help of another charity. Her appeal was refused and her cards were taken away, as a result, her bail was cancelled. She was given an ultimatum to return to the IDC with her 2 young daughters, the youngest being 6 years old. She described the IDC as hell and decided to move back to Pakistan. She has moved to another part of Pakistan in hopes of hiding from her persecutors. Since, she has been untraceable to us. We pray for her protection and safety as she could potentially face threats due to her faith in Christ. This is the story of hundreds of Pakistani Christians who have been re-persecuted by the UNHCR and are left with no choice than to go back to face persecution for their faith in Christ.

Please continue to keep our aid missions in your prayers. We have been trying to increase our mission in Thailand but are unable to do that without help. We have been sustaining support for Jacksonn’s and for John’s family as they fight for their claim to be approved, but we have been struggling to maintain ongoing funds for our families. Please pray for them. Continue to support our mission through your prayers.

God bless the persecuted church.

1 John 4:19 states, “We love because He first loved us.” Let us continue to share our love bestowed upon us through our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
God bless us all.

By our Asian correspondent

Join us during our 12-hour prayer conference call, today. We are expecting to speak with and pray with a Pakistani brother between

Time of the Call:

9 a.m.- 9 p.m. Eastern time

8 a.m.-8 p.m.  Central time

7 a.m.-7 p.m.  Mountain time

6 a.m.-6 p.m. Pacific time

Call number: 712.775.7035
Access code: 281207#

Please pray for persecuted Christian families suffering in Thailand. Pray the Thai government will soften their hearts towards them. And pray the UNHCR will find a way to speed up and fairly investigate the unbearably long process of their asylum cases.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

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HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
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Pakistan’s Calculated Spin on Apparent Killing of Chinese Evangelists

Meng Li Si (Meng Lisi) and Lee Zing Yang (Li Xinheng ). (iFeng.com photo)

(Morning Star News) – Islamabad’s claim that “violations” of business visas contributed to the murder of two Chinese evangelists last month served key government purposes.

Lee Zing Yang (Li Xinheng is said to be the more accurate rendering), 24, and Meng Li Si (Meng Lisi), 26, were teaching Chinese to people in Pakistan, and, like any Christian, they also intended to share the gospel with people they met. Pakistani media dutifully broadcast the Interior Ministry spin on their apparent deaths, which accused the couple of “preaching” – suggesting that it violated terms of their business visas (it was not clear how), and wrongly implying that they were exhorting crowds of people to believe in Christ.

Reports state that Lee and Meng were paid 30,000 rupees (US$280) per month to teach Chinese to people in Pakistan at a language institute run by a South Korean, Juan Won Seo. The interior ministry released a statement asserting that security officials told Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a June 12 meeting that, “Instead of engaging in any business activity, they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning [the] Urdu language from a Korean national …were actually engaged in preaching.”

The apparent error that they were there to learn Urdu aside, Khan’s announcement, which included a call to tighten processes for issuing business visas, sent the message that the pair’s kidnapping and apparent murder resulted from allegedly violating terms of their visas.

Lee and Meng were kidnapped off the streets of Quetta, capital of northwestern Pakistan’s Balochistan Province, on May 24. The Islamic State-affiliated news agency Amaq reported on June 8 that IS fighters had killed two Chinese teachers being held in Mastung, Balochistan, and IS released a video showing what are believed to be their bodies shot and bleeding.

Pakistan reportedly confirmed that the Chinese teachers had been killed, though it was unclear if officials had recovered their bodies.

The interior minister’s emphasis on the need to shore up the visa process, rather than improving security against Islamic extremists, served the government’s purpose of deflecting blame. It also sent a chilling message to foreign Christian evangelists. Previously the government had leaked news that two Korean Christians, 27-year-old Kown Ki Ye and 23-year-old Lee Ha Gyeong, had been expelled from a private hostel in Quetta after they were discovered “preaching Christianity” to students at Sardur Bahadur Khan Women’s University in Quetta.

“The government has deliberately leaked this information to create panic in the foreign missionary circles,” a source told Morning Star News.

The interior ministry’s spin on the murder of the Chinese pair also served its purpose in relations with China, which has pledged to invest $57 billion in infrastructure in Pakistan designed to link China with the Middle East and Europe. The capital for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPC) has put China in position to make demands of Pakistan that have raised criticism within Pakistan.

Besides helping to preserve the enormous CPC investment, the government’s statements on the killing of Lee and Meng were done deliberately to check China’s position in bilateral relations, a Foreign Affairs ministry contact told Morning Star News. Pakistan has since bolstered its position vis-a-visa China by boosting security for Chinese nationals.

Pakistan has also deported Juan Won Seo, accusing him of setting up a phony business as a cover for a church and “preaching activities.” A South Korean official has denied this claim. True or not, whether Seo broke any laws by telling others about Christ while operating a language institute in Pakistan remains unclear.

While Islam is the state religion of Pakistan, its constitution states that all citizens have the right to profess, practice, and propagate their religion, as well as the right to freedom of speech subject to “reasonable restrictions in the interest of the glory of Islam.”

What does seem certain is that Pakistani officials have violated international standards of religious freedom and free speech by deporting foreign evangelists and suggesting that those who exercise their faith are responsible for violence done to them.

Christian Sanitation Worker in Pakistan Dies after Hospital Refuses to Treat Him, Family Says

Protestors with Irfan Masih’s body during demonstration. (Twitter)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A Christian sanitation worker in Pakistan died on Thursday (June 1) after Muslim doctors refused to treat him for poisonous gas he was exposed to in a sewer, sources said.

Doctors at Civil Hospital Medical refused to treat 28-year-old Irfan Masih of Umerkot City, Sindh Province, saying they did not want to touch the filth-covered worker during the Islamic month of Ramandan, Masih’s brother told Morning Star News.

Babar Masih said that his brother entered a deep manhole to clear a sewage line but smelled poisonous gas and called out for help.

“Irfan’s coworkers did not have the equipment to pull him out, so another worker, Yaqoob Masih, descended into the manhole to rescue him,” he said. “However, both men inhaled the fumes and fainted. Two other Christian sanitary workers, Faisal Masih and Shaukat Masih, went after them but they also fainted.”

Area passers-by managed to rescue the four men, who were taken to Umerkot Civil Hospital, he said. The doctors on duty, however, said they were fasting and would not touch the Christian, who was covered in sewage filth, he said.

“The doctors said they refused to treat him because they were fasting and said he was ‘napaak [unclean],’” Baba Masih said.

Family members cleaned Masih’s body, he added, after which the doctors sent for an oxygen cylinder.

“But the cylinder was empty” he said. “And, before they could arrange another cylinder, he died.”

The family then held a protest, carrying his body from the hospital to the Umerkot Press Club, where they demonstrated for about 10 hours, demanding the registration of a criminal case.

Based on a complaint by Irfan Masih’s father, Nazeer Masih, Umerkot Police registered a case on Friday (June 2) against Civil Hospital Medical Superintendent Jam Kunbhar, a medical officer identified only as Yusuf and duty doctor Allahdad Rathore, and three employees of the Umerkot Municipal Committee – Sanitation Inspector Behari Lal, Khalid Khoso and Sarwan Malhi. Kunbhar was reportedly arrested.

The doctors are accused of criminal negligence and manslaughter under sections 319 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code, for allegedly refusing Irfan Masih treatment.

Health Director General Akhlaq Khan reportedly said that after his initial investigation, Irfan Masih’s death was not a result of the doctors’ negligence, but that they were at fault to some degree.

Officials from the Pakistan Medical Association later carried out a demonstration against the arrest of Kunbhar and case filed against the doctors, claiming that the accusations were fabricated. They threatened to boycott the Outdoor Patient Department and emergency services wards throughout the district if Kunbhar is not released.
Insisting that Masih was alive when he arrived at the hospital, the deceased’s family reportedly insisted that after Yusuf looked at him in the emergency room and then went outside.

At the same time, the municipal committee employees are accused of failing to provide him and the other Christian sanitary workers with the necessary safety kits and gear. Protesting workers alleged that Umerkot Municipal Committee officials had forced Irfan Masih and others to work in the manhole without safety gear.

Some 60 Christians are employed by the Umerkot Municipal Committee on daily wages.

“They always threaten us with consequences of losing our jobs if we don’t obey their directives,” Christian sanitation worker Ghafoor Masih told local media.

The municipal committee’s chairman and administrative officers were unavailable for comment.

Several sanitation workers have reportedly lost their lives due to toxic gases in manholes. Overall, hundreds of people have lost their lives working for the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), but their families do not receive benefits that other government employees get because the workers lack regular status despite working decades for the department.

Though Christians account for 90 percent of sewage workers and an even high percentage of sweepers, they make up only 2.45 percent of Pakistan’s population, which is more than 95 percent Muslim, according to Operation World.

Christian sanitation workers face extremely dangerous work conditions. When sewer lines clog because they are too small, these workers are not provided any protective gear as they sometimes dive 30 to 50 feet below ground into manholes filled with toxic water.

A large proportion of the Christian minority in Pakistan became sanitation workers for historical reasons. Sweeping in pre-Partition India was a job reserved for the lower castes. A large segment of lower Indian castes converted to Christianity after 1850, under British rule, to improve their lives.

The British continued these caste differences in the interests of convenience, economy and efficiency, and the colonial legacy inherited by the government of Pakistan has remained. After partition, even greater numbers of Christians were drawn to this profession; several landless Christian agricultural laborers who migrated to Pakistan took up the task of sweeping and sanitation in large cities in order to survive.

“Christian sanitation workers are discriminated against both by Muslims and by fellow Christians engaged in other professions,” said rights activist Shakeel Naz. “Since their work is considered unclean, people tend to look down upon them. It would not be wrong to say that the Christian sanitation workers are treated like animals in Pakistan.”

Naz, who also runs a school for poor Christian children in Lahore’s Makkah Colony, said that people refuse to shake hands with sanitation workers and do not eat from the same plate as them.

“Even some of our Christian brethren look down on these workers,” he said.

Many poor workers, by virtue of being Christian, feel they are left with no choice but to work as sweepers and sanitary workers.

“In many cases, sanitation work is inherited inter-generationally, and Christians associated with this occupation refuse to take up other jobs,” he said. “Since a large number of Christian sanitary workers have been killed while cleaning gutters and manholes, the least that the government can do is to provide them with protective gear and proper healthcare facilities.”

Pakistani Christian sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy

CLAAS, a religious freedom advocacy group updated Voice of the Persecuted on the case of Zafar Bhatti, a Christian in Pakistan who was falsely charged of blasphemy and now sentenced to life imprisonment by a Pakistani court on May 3, 2017.

Bhatti had been charged under blasphemy law section 295C and telegraph act section 25D in 2012 for sending blasphemous text messages from his mobile phone, which is according to reports was not registered to his name. He denies the charges.

Since 2012, he has been imprisoned in Adiala Central Jail Rawalpindi. Considering the threats to his life, the case was conducted in the jail on April 24 but the judgment was reserved for later dates. On May 3, the Additional session judge jailed him for life.

Usually courts hand down a death sentence to those who are charged under 295-C, but because there was no concrete evidence against Bhatti, he was sentenced to life imprisonment instead.

In 2012 Islamabad, the lawyers’ bar passed a resolution that no lawyer will represent Bhatti in the court, but CLAAS accepted his responsibility. They’re also helping to care for his family.

Due to threats against the accused and their lawyers, CLAAS tried to move the case to Lahore but the request was denied.

Nasir Saeed, director CLAAS-UK said it is very unfortunate that even though there was not enough evidence against Bhatti, instead of freeing him, the court has sentenced him to life imprisonment because of pressure from Islamists.

“The blasphemy law is continuously being misused in Pakistan to take revenge and settle personal scores. Christians are the most targeted group, and several Christians have been burnt alive, and even their towns and churches are often attacked and set to fire.”

“The lower court’s judges always hesitate to make decisions on the merit, or free people accused of blasphemy, and instead transfer their burden to the higher court without realizing how their decision will impact the accused and their families’ lives.”

CLAAS says they will appeal against the lower court’s decision to the Lahore high court. They believe Bhatti is innocent and will be freed by the higher court. Unfortunately, it will take several years for his case to be heard by the High Court.

Please pray for Bhatti and his family who are suffering needlessly.

Recently Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution to prevent abuse through introducing safeguards. However, all such calls have faced strong opposition in the past. Those who’ve demanded changes in the blasphemy law were silenced and threatened with death.  The governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti were savagely killed, as their acts were considered equal to blasphemy by hardliners.

Nevertheless, this latest resolution is clearly something to be welcomed and another reason to continue praying for the repeal of the laws so nobody has to suffer needlessly,  CLAAS told Voice of the Persecuted.

 

US Senators pressing Pakistan to release Asia Bibi

Mother of five, Asia Bibi with two of her children

Two top American Senators have introduced a resolution in the US Senate urging Pakistan to release a Pakistani-Christian woman who is serving a jail term for alleged violation of the country’s draconian blasphemy laws.

Senators Rand Paul and Chris Coons on Tuesday introduced a resolution urging Pakistan to release Aasiya Noreen, commonly referred to as Asia Bibi, a mother of five from Nankana area of Punjab province who was convicted of blasphemy in 2009 and has been on death row since 2010. However, after an international outcry, the Pakistani Supreme Court stayed her execution.

The senators also asked Pakistan to reform the laws that have led to the targeting of religious minorities. “My heart goes out to Asia Bibi as she continues to endure her unjust imprisonment in Pakistan,” said Paul. “It’s time for Pakistan to immediately release Asia Bibi and put a stop to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities,” he added. Read More

VOP note: Please remember and keep Asia in your prayers.

Pakistani Christians ‘attacked’ as land dispute escalates

The Alba Presbyterian Church in Sankhatra, Narowal District, Pakistan. World Watch Monitor

The Alba Presbyterian Church in Sankhatra, Narowal District, Pakistan.
World Watch Monitor

(World Watch Monitor) More than 200 men, some armed with sticks, suddenly gathered on Wednesday morning (8 Feb) beside the Alba Presbyterian Church in Sankhatra, 115km north of Lahore, intent on building a boundary wall.

“Children were going to school and men were leaving for work when this large number stormed into the area and started construction,” said Asher Moon, 38, the church’s pastor. “Some of our men and women tried to intervene but they were called names and men armed with sticks beat them.”

Sankhatra is part of Narowal District, where Presbyterian missionaries from the US city of Philadelphia journeyed in 1855 to begin a mission that would spread the message of Christianity across Punjab, which had only come under British rule in 1849.

Thirty Christian families still live in Sankhatra, but their land has been under legal threat.

Moon, who took over the leadership of the church when his father died in 2011, said the police were “reluctant to register a case” against the attackers, although five women and a 13-year-old boy were among those hurt.

“For [the police], our being insulted has no meaning,” he said.

“We called the emergency response police three times, but they only arrived after two hours, after the crowd had beaten and insulted our men and women. The construction work was still going on and we showed them a magistrate’s injunction that no party can change the current status until the ownership of the land is decided in the court, but the police refused to acknowledge this court order.”

The legal battle has been raging for ownership of the 1750-square-yard piece of land since April 2016.

“It was even worse at that time,” said Moon. “They brought bulldozers and fired shots in the air and beat our men and women. They even demolished some of our houses.”

Moon said they had “rushed to court” to obtain an injunction against their eviction. They received it and the court case is ongoing.

But Moon said that last week “false propaganda” was spread that the court had ended the temporary injunction, leading the men to think they could return to demolish more buildings.

“Most of our people are illiterate and work menial jobs, so [the locals] had thought that it would be easy to fool them,” he said. But Moon had the injunction renewed at court on 6 February.

Chaudhry Kashir, a local Christian councillor, told World Watch Monitor that the attackers want to set up a market of between 50 to 100 shops on the land, which is beside a main road.

“The other party has documents that show that someone gave this [government-owned] land to the Christians for living about seven decades ago but there is no valid proof that is provided in the court yet,” he said. “Mostly, civil litigation on land issues goes on for 20 to 30 years in Pakistan. So parties indulge in criminally evicting the weaker side to show to the court that they are in possession of the land to strengthen their case.”

A local police officer, Ishtiaq Ahmed, said he didn’t know if the land had ever been owned by the government, but that the Christians were “lying” in saying that “this is their land, or that they have any connection with it”.

“The other party had legal documents,” he added.

Ahmed also claimed that no violence had taken place on Wednesday morning – only a “verbal clash”.

“If their women had been beaten, then the police would have registered a case,” he said. “There are no houses on the land and I don’t know if there were houses 10 months ago that were demolished.”

But Moon said there have been Christian homes on the land “since my childhood”.

“I was told that there used to be a pond for sanitary water but when the sewerage system was set up, this pond dried up and Christians filled it in with earth and built their homes,” he said. “Now this land has commercial value and they are trying to snatch it from us. Our opponents have encroached on the church land too: up to five feet on one side of the church, and 15 feet on the other side.

“The same police who were unwilling to register a case, and then were unwilling to accept the court injunction, are now having to acknowledge the court injunction because of pressure from higher authorities.”

Several attacks on Pakistan’s Christian minority have been linked to land disputes and it is thought this has also been the motive in several accusations of blasphemy against Christians. Incidents include the 2009 Gojra communal violence in which seven Christians died; the blasphemy accusation against 16-year-old Rimsha Masih in 2012 and the Joseph Colony arson attack in Lahore in March 2013.

As World Watch Monitor reported last year, Christians were also threatened with eviction from government land in Islamabad, the capital, because their “ugly” settlements spoil the landscape of “one of the most beautiful cities in the world”.

It used to be prohibited for members of the so-called “untouchable” castes – which includes many Christians – to buy land. Even today, most Christians live in irregular or illegal settlements on government land.

Background

Narowal is significant for the Pakistani Christian population because it’s the district where Christianity first started to spread through Presbyterian missionary Andrew Gordon in 1855.

In 1873 there were only about 4,000 Christians in Punjab, from diverse metropolitan backgrounds.

Then, 10 miles from Narowal, in 1873 an “untouchable” man known as “Ditt” (who had to skin dead animals and pick up garbage from the streets to survive) converted to Christianity. Ditt spread the Gospel among his caste in surrounding villages as US and European missionaries spread education and healthcare. From 1881, the number of Christians in Punjab multiplied from just a few thousand to over half a million by 1941.

Christian, 70, Charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan as 106 Muslims Are Acquitted

 

 

 

 

 

Muslim mob burn down and destroy entire Christian neighborhood for blasphemy charge claimed to be false.

Muslim mob burn down and destroy entire Christian neighborhood for blasphemy charge claimed to be false.

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A 70-year-old Christian in Pakistan was jailed on blasphemy charges on the same day 106 Muslims accused in a 2013 attack on a Christian colony were acquitted.

A mosque leader in the Lambanwali area north of Gujranwala, Punjab Province, on Jan. 28 accused Mukhtar Masih of writing two letters containing derogatory remarks about the Koran and Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, police records show. He was charged under Section 295-A, deliberate and malicious acts intending to outrage religious feelings, which carries a sentence of 10 years of prison and/or a fine, and under Section 298, derogatory remarks against “holy personages,” punishable by three years’ imprisonment and/or fine.

Police raided Masih’s house on Jan. 28 and took his entire family into custody, an area source told Morning Star News.

“The police took with them Masih, his son, daughter, and three children,” he said. “The family was later released on the intervention of rights outfits, but Masih was detained under blasphemy charges.”

The source said that the charges against Masih were fabricated by local Muslims seeking to seize his property. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal scores, and Islamist groups and lawyers advocating the harshest punishments often apply pressure for convictions on police and courts.

Mosque leader Qari Shahbaz Hussain alleges in the First Information Report (FIR No. 49/17) that area residents on Jan. 26 brought to his notice two letters containing the alleged blasphemous comments. He stated that an investigation by a local committee he headed revealed the letters were written by Masih.

Hussain claimed in the FIR that the committee had found Masih guilty and sought his prosecution under blasphemy charges. Hussain and other accusers were unavailable for comment, and Masih’s relatives have gone into hiding and were also unavailable.

The investigating officer refused repeated requests for comment, citing orders from his superiors.

Also on Jan. 28, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore acquitted 106 Muslims accused of a massive attack on Joseph Colony, sparked by a blasphemy accusation in March 2013, after prosecution witnesses said they did not recognize any of the accused assailants.

More than 80 prosecution witnesses, 63 of them with statements recorded about the attack that destroyed more than 150 homes, said they did not recognize the accused. The 106 suspects, who were released on bail the day they were accused, appeared before judge Muhammad Azam.

On March 9, 2013, thousands of rioters armed with sticks, clubs and stones besieged Joseph Colony and torched the houses in the predominantly Christian neighborhood following allegations of blasphemy against a Christian, Sawan Masih.

The mob also torched three church buildings, several shops and a number of vehicles. Police later arrested both the rioters and the blasphemy suspect, who was charged under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for derogatory remarks about Muhammad, which mandates the death penalty.

Sawan Masih was sentenced to death on March 28, 2014. His appeal against the conviction is pending in the Lahore High Court.

Witnesses and police said the enraged mob ransacked and burned the entire locality a day after all Christian families left the area, as police apparently had alerted them about the possibility of an attack. The affected people, however, also accused police of doing nothing to stop the attack and plunder.

Blasphemy Suspect Released on Bail

Separately, a Christian facing the death penalty on blasphemy charges was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Wednesday (Feb 1) because of gaps in the investigation of his case, sources said.

Evangelist Adnan Prince had been in prison since Nov. 6, 2013, after he sought to correct misconceptions about Christianity in a Muslim book. He was charged with outraging religious feelings (Section 295-A), defiling the Koran (295-B) and derogatory remarks against Muhammad (295-C) of Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy laws. He denied having written anything against Islam or Muhammad when he scribbled in a Muslim book he found in a glassworks shop where his brother worked.

The accused’s lead counsel, Asma Jahangir, indicated that deficiencies in the case against Prince led to his release on bail. She told reporters that there were no direct eyewitnesses, and all forensic evidence failed to link the accused in the case against her client.

She added that the case should have been decided within two years. Prince was jailed on Nov. 9, 2013. Jahangir said the case was not decided within two years due to lawyers’ strikes and prosecution delay tactics. She added that legal formalities were not fulfilled when investigating the matter.

“According to guidelines passed by the Supreme Court, a police officer not below the rank of a superintendent should have conducted the probe,” she reportedly said.

Attorney Nadeem Anthony, another member of Prince’s defense team, said that on the court’s directions, Sections 295-A and 295-B have been dropped, and the evangelist is facing only 295-C, punishable by death.

Blasphemy suspects have long been targeted by Islamist vigilantes in Pakistan. At least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

A three-member bench headed by Justice Dost Muhammad Khan on Wednesday (Feb. 1) ordered Prince’s release on bail.

Pakistani politicians initiate debate to amend the blasphemy law

 

blasphemy-66-332

(Agenzia Fides) The debate to amend the controversial “blasphemy law”, composed of the articles of the Penal Code that punish with life imprisonment or the death penalty insults against Islam has begun in the Pakistani Senate. It was Muslim Senator Farhatullah Baber, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party and representative of the Special Committee of the Pakistani Senate on human rights, to introduce the theme to look for ways to stop the abuse of the law.

The new attempt to discuss the matter in Parliament comes a decade after parliamentary Minocher Bhandara, a Zoroastrian, presented in 2007 a bill with amendments to the blasphemy law. The proposal was immediately blocked by the then Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Sher Afgan Niazi, for fear of offending the feelings of Muslims, appealing to the principle that “no law should contradict Islamic law”. (more…)

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