Pakistani Christian cleared of blasphemy charge in rare case of justice

February 7, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia, Persecution

“Today, a great justice has been served. Masih was innocent and everyone knew. An innocent man was saved from a terrible fate.”

Pakistani Christian cleared of blasphemyPakistan, February 05, 2013: A Pakistani Christian falsely charged with a blasphemy offence that is punishable by death has been acquitted in a rare case of justice for the minority community.

Barkat Masih (56) was cleared of the alleged offence under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which refers to defiling the name of Muhammad, on 28 January.

The convert from Hinduism had been accused of blasphemy in his hometown of Khairpur in October 2011. Barkat, a sweeper, was threatened with “dire consequences” by two Muslim men when he refused to hand over the keys to a site where he was working; it is thought that they were trying to occupy a plot of land illegally.

The Muslims subsequently lodged a complaint with the police against Barkat, accusing him of insulting Muhammad.  The Christian was arrested and taken to Bahawalpur Central Jail, where he was held until his release last week.

Despite being cleared, Barkat remains in danger. People accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, even if subsequently found innocent, are vulnerable to attack by Muslim extremists.

Barkat and his family will now have to relocate and try to rebuild their lives elsewhere. He is married with four sons and one daughter.

His lawyer, Lazar Allah Rakha, has also been threatened for supporting a man accused of blasphemy.

Church leader Nawaz George said that Barkat remained firm in his faith throughout the ordeal and added that he hoped the outcome in this case would bring hope to others who are in prison, waiting for justice to be done.

The case has once again renewed calls for reform of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. Napolean Qayyum of the Pakistan People’s Party Minorities Wing said:

This case again warrants a review of the application of the blasphemy laws, which are misused by people to settle personal scores and vendettas. Even though minorities are suffering because of the laws’ misuse, many Muslims are also languishing in jails on false blasphemy charges.

Christian mother Aasia Bibi has been in prison for three-and-a-half years following a false blasphemy accusation. She was sentenced to death in November 2010 and has been waiting for her appeal to be heard ever since.

– barnabas team

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