ASIA/PAKISTAN - Lynching in Lahore: 42 Christians convicted of terrorism

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 terrorism   islam   violence   religious minorities  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Lahore anti-terrorist court sentenced 42 Christians for terrorism. As Fides learns, the Court pronounced the sentence for Christian citizens accused of lynching which occurred after the terrorist attacks on two churches (one Catholic, one Protestant) in Youhanabad district, Lahore, on March 15, 2015.
After the bombs, the protest of the faithful broke out and killed - in an act condemned by all Christian leaders - two Muslims suspected of being perpetrators or accomplices of the attackers. In the following days, the police had made several raids in the district arresting about 500 people and then confirming the detention of 84 Christians, accusing them of murder and terrorism. Among them, 42 were acquitted in the summer of 2016. Among the 42 sentenced today, three human rights activists have been labeled as "instigators of violence". Christians claim that the murders were committed by a few agitators, infiltrated in the community.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops, in a statement sent to Fides, express disappointment "because the police and the authorities focused only on the deplorable act of lynching, to be condemned strongly, while the authors of the criminal attack on churches, on innocent worshipers, are still unpunished".
According to the NGO "Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement" (CLAAS) at least 32 defendants "are unjustly accused" and the pressures from Muslim extremists may have weighed on the verdict.
To prevent incidents of this kind, the Pakistan National Assembly in recent days passed the "Criminal Laws Amendment Act 2016", a law that punishes sectarianism, forced conversions and mass lynching. The text, which in order to come into force must be signed by the President of the nation, has been welcomed as a step forward for the conditions of religious minorities. The new rules amend some laws that already exist prescribing imprisonment from one to three years for inciting religious hatred and violence, and provide for imprisonment up to 10 years in cases of forced marriages of underage girls or women belonging to minority groups. The text also makes being lynched by the "crowds who take the law into their own hands a criminal offense". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/02/2017)