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(Photo by Bill Hunt).
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Pakistan Rules Justice Against Slander
Pakistani judge throws out slanderous blasphemy charge against Christian.
LAHORE, Pakistan, Feb. 19 (World Watch Monitor) — A Pakistan court last month surprised all involved when it dismissed charges of blasphemy against a Christian man accused of insulting Islam.
The Jan. 28 ruling by a trial court in Punjab province surprised defendant Barkat Masih, his attorney and religious-rights advocates. It came two months after a different judge threw out similar charges against a teen-aged girl that drew worldwide criticism of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.
Masih was arrested in October 2011 on the basis of a complaint filed by two men who accused him of insulting the prophet Muhammad. After one judge balked at taking up the case, a second stepped in an ordered a police investigation of the charge. Police found evidence that the accusers were attempting to wrest property away from Masih, and prosecutors could provide no evidence to support the blasphemy charge.
The judge then threw out the case and set Masih free.
“This is a remarkable case in which a trial court judge has released a person charged with blasphemy,” said Masih’s lawyer, Allah Rakha. “In my several years of legal practice I have never seen a trial judge showing guts in such a sensitive matter.”
Some government officials drew a link from the case of Barkat Masih to the much more widely covered case of Rimsha Masih, an Islamabad girl arrested in August on charges that she burned some pages of an Islamic text. The courts threw out the case when police provided evidence the burned pages were planted on the girl by a local Imam.
“Rimsha Masih’s case is a clear example of how the blasphemy laws are misused by people,” Peter Jacob, of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, told World Watch Monitor.
“Even in Barkat Masih’s case, it’s quite clear that the complainants wanted to grab his property therefore they charged him with an allegation quite a few people in Pakistan dare to question. The government and judiciary should review all blasphemy cases because most of those accused are victims of jealousy and prejudice.”
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