ASIA/PAKISTAN - Five Christians acquitted from charges of blasphemy

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 blasphemy   human rights   religious minorities  


Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - An anti-terrorism court in Lahore acquitted five Christians accused of blasphemy. The case was registered on August 16, 2015 against sixteen persons accused of having published material considered offensive to Islam.
The court had also added charges of "inciting sectarian hatred". Among the victims there was a Protestant Christian pastor Aftab Gill of Gujrat, who published a poster with the word "rasool" (in Urdu: Apostle) for his late father Fazal Masih, founder of his community. The Muslims were offended because the term "rasool" is an attribute of the Prophet Muhammad.
The NGO CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement), which ensures legal assistance to the faithful, recalls that "the term 'rasool' is present in the Bible in Urdu and Christians had no blasphemous intent". In September last year the anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala had denied bail to the accused Christians. Now, after a new instance promoted by CLAAS, five believers were released.
"The abuse of the blasphemy law continues to attack Christians in Pakistan", says CLAAS in a note sent to Fides. Last month, at least three Christians were accused of blasphemy in Mandi Bahauddin, while in Gujrat a Christian seamstress, Sonia Gill, was accused for having sat on a cloth bearing the sacred Islamic verses. In recent months, in Faisalabad, Christian Usman Liaqat was charged with blasphemy for publishing some comments on social networks. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/06/2016)