ASIA/PAKISTAN - After 12 years in prison: A Christian sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy acquitted on appeal

Tuesday, 15 December 2020 blasphemy   human rights   religious minorities   islam   justice  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Imran Masih, a 38-year-old Christian from Faisalabad, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy, was acquitted on appeal today, December 15, before the Lahore Supreme Court. The court overturned the first instance sentence that sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2010. This is confirmed by the Catholic lawyer Khalil Tahir Sandhu, who defended Imran, like many other Pakistani Christians unjustly accused of blasphemy.
"This is good news for justice, for Christians, for the country. We are happy for the positive outcome of the process which, ultimately recognizes freedom for an innocent person. But on the other hand there is also a bitter side: the case hearings were postponed more than 70 times. Imran was unjustly imprisoned for 12 years, could no longer see his parents, both of whom died during his imprisonment, and lost part of his youth in prison for a crime not committed", the lawyer told Fides.
Faced with such cases, Sandhu observes: "We must continue to fight, at all levels, to change this unjust blasphemy law. This law has been abused for too long and Christians are often innocent victims. It should be noted that until 1986 there were no cases of blasphemy charges in Pakistan. From 1986 onwards - when General Zia-ul-Haq promulgated the law – alleged cases of blasphemy occurred almost everywhere. But for the most part the allegations are completely false and instrumentalized".
Imran Masih has been in prison since July 1st 2009. In January 2010 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The charges against him were fabricated and totally false. A neighbor accused him of burning a copy of the Koran. The young man had been lured into a trap: while cleaning up his shop, he wanted to get rid of some books written in Arabic (a language he does not understand) and, for this reason, he had asked a neighbor to look at them to see if the books were religious or Islamic. The neighbor assured them that this was not the case, so Imran Masih burned them. Then he found himself the victim of a blasphemy lawsuit filed by this neighbor who accused him of desecrating and burning a copy of the Koran. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/12/2020)