(Islamabad) The Christian Younis Masih is free again. For eight years he was in Pakistan in prison because he had refused "to pray as a Muslim". Since the 10th of October 2005 Younis Masih has sat in jail after Muslims had convicted him for blasphemy. Now he is free and still lives in fear." To be honest, I'm more afraid to be murdered in cold blood in freedom."
The Pakistani Younis Masih is 35 years old today. Yesterday he was released from prison in which he had been put at the age of 27 years. The release was decided by the Higher Regional Court of Lahore, as the Christian Association of Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) reported.
On May 30th, 2007 Masih was sentenced after one and half years detention to death by a Pakistani court and ordered to pay 100,000 rupees penalty. After six years on death row, he was acquitted last April 3rd by an appeals court. Yesterday he was finally released. Masih keeps on with his family at an unknown location. Fearing an attack by Islamists, the Christian Association had made the necessary arrangements. Even if the Court of Lahore stated his innocence and acknowledged that Younis Masih sat wrongfully in prison for eight years, the Islamists are not impressed. In Pakistan, there have been Christians who were accused of insulting Islam, and murdered by incited Muslims before a court ruling.
Masih was arrested on the 10th of October 2005 after he had been accused by Muslims of insulting Mohammed and the Koran. "The conviction was based on pure nothing," said Masih's lawyer. "Unfortunately, the testimony of Muslims suffices as evidence of a crime. The testimony of a Muslim is enough to condemn another human being to death."
According to counsel "a group of Christians had gathered on September 8th, 2006 in Chungi Ammarsiduh, a district of Lahore. A neighboring Muslim felt disturbed and asked them to leave. Abdul Aziz, one of the plaintiffs, urged Masih that Christians should pray like the Muslims, at that point a lengthy altercation developed. Two days later, Masih was arrested by the police. He was charged with insulting Islam."
Masih said yesterday at a meeting with the representatives of LEAD: "I have four children, and wasa innocent for eight years in prison and am now out of work. But above all, I live in fear of being murdered in cold blood at any moment. "The fear is justified, as shown by other events. Also, Masih has received a number of death threats over the past few years, as the lawyer confirmed.
Since the military dictator Zia ul-Haq had put in force the notorious anti-blasphemy law in 1986, against insulting Islam, at least 50 of 130 Christians convicted under this Act have been executed in Pakistan. The law provides for life imprisonment or the death penalty for insulting Allah, Islam, the Koran or Mohammed.
The law is often abused by Muslims to take revenge on Christians, other non-Muslims or Muslims with each other or because they want to gain possession of their house or land. By 2009, 90 percent of 994 charges against Christians were thrown out as manifestly unfounded. For more than 1,600 days, or four and a half years, the Christian Asia Bibi has been in prison. Since the 8th of November, 2010 she has been sitting on death row, because a court has found her guilty of insulting Islam. Because they were0 campaigning for the release of Asia Bibi and a change in the law, the Catholic Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, and the Muslim Governor, Salman Taseer were murdered by fanatical Muslims in two attacks.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Trans: Tancred email@example.com
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