ASIA/PAKISTAN - Civil society calls for the release of a Christian falsely accused of blasphemy

Friday, 24 June 2022 blasphemy   civil society   human rights  

Karachi (Agenzia Fides) - "We ask for the release of a Pakistani Christian, 44-year-old Rehmat Masih, who has been in prison for five months. He is innocent and is falsely accused of having desecrated the pages of the Koran.
Police officers must carry out their duties impartially, without being influenced by religious beliefs. The blasphemy law has created a society in which people, including complainants and their influential supporters, believe themselves empowered to seek justice for themselves, ignoring the rule of law. The case of Rehmat Masih is another example of how the blasphemy law is used improperly or to harm someone": says Joseph Jansen, president of "The Voice for Justice, an NGO that is following the case of Rehmat Masih. Joseph Jansen: "In this case there is no evidence against him; the man was beaten and tortured in order to confess a crime he did not commit. At the same time, his family is about to move to a safer city, due to stress and poverty".
Rehmat Masih was accused of blasphemy on January 3, 2022 for having contaminated and desecrated the pages of the Koran and Islamic books at the publishing house Zam Zam Publishers" in Karachi where he had worked as a cleaner for about twenty years. The publishing house known worldwide for its quality printing, publishing, distribution and export of Islamic books since 1992.
The story began when city police officers received a video showing pages from the Koran in a sewage drain on December 25, 2021. When they arrived on the spot and found those pages, police officers filed a First Information Report (FIR) against unknown persons, pursuant to article 295 paragraph B of the Penal Code of Pakistan, in which the act of profaning the Koran is punished.
On December 28, when Rehmat Masih returned to work after the Christmas celebrations, the company's management asked him about the pages of the Koran found in the sewer. The man said he did not know anything. The company's management alleged, lying, that Rehmat Masih had admitted to his crime. On January 3, 2022, police officers arrested Rehmat Masih and tortured him to admit the desecration of the pages of the Koran.
On January 24, 2022, the judge of the Court of First Instance rejected the bail for Rehmat Masih and in the recent hearing of May 31, 2022 the judge recorded a statement from him, in which Rehmat Masih pleaded "not guilty" with respect to the charges brought against him. Welcoming the complaints of various civil society organizations, Ilyas Samuel, a well-known human rights activist and President of "Be the Light TV", a Christian television, observes to Fides: "This case is full of inconsistencies. There is no eyewitness, no evidence, no video showing Rehmat Masih throwing pages of the Koran down the sewage drain. Rehmat Masih is falsely accused. We pray and ask for the immediate release of an innocent person". According to statistics released by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) from 1987 until December 2021 there are 1,949 people indicted under blasphemy laws in Pakistan, including Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis. Among them 84 people were killed out of court, before their possible guilt was established. (AG/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 24/6/2022)