Chris­tian set free in Pak­istan

The Church of England - - NEWS -

SEVEN years af­ter be­ing sen­tenced to death for blasphemy a Pak­istani Chris­tian has been set free.

On 3 April 2013 La­hore High Court jus­tices Khaja Am­tiaz Ahmed and Khalid Mehmood Khan over­turned the con­vic­tion of You­nis Masih and or­dered his im­me­di­ate re­lease from prison.

On 10 Septem­ber 2005 Masih was ar­rested af­ter he had asked a party of Mus­lim men the night be­fore if they would lower the vol­ume of their singing. The men re­sponded by at­tack­ing Masih and beat him un­con­scious. Is­lamic lead­ers then incited a mob to burn Chris­tians’ homes, say­ing Masih had com­mit­ted blasphemy. More than 100 Chris­tian fam­i­lies were forced to flee.

His lawyers al­leged that to pla­cate the mob the po­lice ar­rested Masih. A La­hore Court sen­tenced him to death on 30 May 2007. In over­turn­ing his con­vic­tion the ap­peals court held there was no proof of blasphemy.

In a state­ment re­leased last week Re­lease In­ter­na­tional, which had been work­ing with lawyers from the Le­gal Aid for Des­ti­tute and Set­tle­ment so­ci­ety in Pak­istan, wel­comed the news.

Re­lease chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Robin­son said: “We are cel­e­brat­ing with You­nis, his fam­ily and our part­ners who have sup­ported them for all th­ese years. We hope this sets a prece­dent for other vic­tims of Pak­istan’s no­to­ri­ous blasphemy laws who should now be re­leased.”

Re­lease com­mended the “brav­ery of High Court judges” who re­leased Masih, “de­spite in­tense pres­sure from Mus­lim hard­lin­ers.”

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