Pakistani Christian acquitted of death penalty after 6 yrs.

Sunday, October 11, 2020
 | 
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

hands on prison barsAfter being sentenced to death six years ago on blasphemy charges for allegedly insulting the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, a Christian man was acquitted by a Pakistani court this week.

"A Lahore High Court division bench headed by Justice Syed Shehbaz Ali Rizvi acquitted Sawan Masih," a court official told The New Indian Express on Tuesday, adding that the court has ordered his release.

Muslims targeting Christians

A couple days after a Muslim friend alleged that Masih insulted the Islamic prophet during a conversation they had at the Joseph Christian Colony in March 2014, local mosques rallied Muslims to retaliate by announcing the insult over their PA systems, which resulted in mob violence, according to International Christian Concern.

The Christian organization reported that more than 3.000 Muslims raided the community and set ablaze 180 Christian homes in Lahore – Pakistan’s second largest city – causing residents to flee for their lives.

Things did not fare well for Masih after the incident.

“After the mob's attack, Masih was arrested and detained by the police and charged with Section 295-C of Pakistan's Penal Code,” CBN News recounted. “Almost a year later, he was sentenced to death in a trial held at the Lahore Camp Jail by officials citing security concerns.”

Muhammad Shahid, Masih’s Muslim accuser, told authorities his Christian friend said, "My Jesus is genuine. He is the Son of Allah. He will return. While your Prophet is false, my Jesus is true and will give salvation," according to CBN.

But foul play was reported by Masih’s attorney, who appealed to the high court by questioning the procedures used in the government authorities’ investigation, as well as the integrity of the prosecution’s allegations. 

“The lawyer pointed out to the court that the police didn't file the case until 33 hours after the alleged incident, claiming this showed dishonest intent,” CBN News noted. “He also showed contradictions in the police's First Information Report, as well as the testimony given by the accuser before the trial court.”

A misrepresentation of the facts – or outright refusal to acknowledge them – was also brought up by the defense.

"The trial had ignored the basic principles of criminal justice in general and principles of Islamic Justice in this case,” Masih objected in his appeal, according to the New Indian Express. “It committed material irregularity in non-reading and misreading of the evidence on record that has caused [a] serious miscarriage of justice.

Vendetta against non-Muslims

It is not uncommon for Muslims to charge false accusations of blasphemy against Christians in Pakistan, where ICC and numerous experts on religious rights say religious hatred and personal grudges often spark these potentially fatal claims that often result in violent protests, vigilante murders and mob lynching.

Even though Masih is now free to go home, ICC Regional Manager William Stark now fears for Masih and his family’s lives.

"It is rare to see such a high-profile blasphemy case against a Christian justly resolved at the High Court level in Pakistan," Stark pointed out. "However, we remain deeply concerned for the safety of Sawan and his family, [as] extremists in Pakistan are known to target individuals accused of religious crimes like blasphemy – even if they have been acquitted."

An endangered minority

Numerous warnings over the years that Pakistan utilizes blasphemy laws more than any other country on the planet have been issued by The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom.

In the predominantly Muslim nation of Pakistan – which Open Doors USA’s World Watch List ranked as the fifth most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian – only about 2% of its population are believers, as reported by The New Indian Express, so those in the small religious minority often have a small audience receptive to their pleas in court.

“Currently, 25 Christians are imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan,” CBN News revealed. “These 25 Christians are defendants in 22 blasphemy cases represented at various levels of the judicial process in the country.”

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