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Pakistan: Christian Charged with Blasphemy under Terrorism Law

Pakistan is home to over two million Christians. All are at risk at all times of being victimized by false blasphemy accusations or other forms of persecution.

A small number of the Christians in Pakistan are Orthodox. Orthodox Christians in Pakistan are under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Singapore and South Asia, which comprises all the Orthodox Communities, Parishes, Foundations and Philanthropic Projects in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Brunei, Timor, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, as well as Pakistan.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.

“Christian Charged with Blasphemy under Pakistan’s Terrorism Law,” Morning Star News, July 24, 2023:

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A judge is allowing a Catholic to be charged with blasphemy under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law, which his attorney said is “illegal and illogical.”

Attorney Rana Abdul Hameed said Lahore Anti-Terrorism Judge Abher Gul Khan on July 6 rejected his application seeking the elimination of the terrorism charges against 32-year-old Imran Rehman, arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from Lahore on Sept. 14, on allegations that he had shared a blasphemous message in a WhatsApp group. The First Information Report (FIR) was registered the same day.

The government is working on draft amendments to allow blasphemy cases to be tried under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism laws, but at present they do not come under their purview, Hameed said.

“There’s no legal provision yet for trying blasphemy accused under anti-terror laws,” he told Morning Star News. “The FIA’s act of including Anti-Terrorism Act sections in the FIR is completely illegal, yet the judge has denied our plea.”

The charges against Rehman, who worked at a ticket office of the Lahore Metro Bus System, are baseless, he said. Rehman was charged under Sections 295-A, 295-B, 295-C and 298 of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes, Section 109/34 and Section 11 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, and sections 6(2)(1), 7, 8 and 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.

Rehman denies that he shared blasphemous content on social media. Calling the charges against him under the anti-terrorism act “illogical and illegal,” Hameed said he will file a motion with the Lahore High Court to drop the terrorism charges.

Suspects accused of blasphemy under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), especially those belonging to vulnerable and marginalized groups, suffer severe trauma and are subjected to unfair trials, Hameed said.

“This unjust labeling of blasphemy accused as terrorists creates a perception that the accused poses a serious threat to society not only as a blasphemer but also as a terrorist,” he said. “My client is under severe mental pressure as he is imprisoned in a barrack where four out of six prisoners suffer from mental illness. These false accusations and label of being a suspected terrorist are taking a toll on both his mental and physical health, and it’s important that the courts realize the injustice being meted out to the poor man.”

Joseph Jansen, an advocacy officer at the Jubilee Campaign, said Rehman was father to two minor girls and was the sole breadwinner for the family.

“His family is deeply distressed and concerned for his well-being,” Jansen told Morning Star News. “They allege that Rehman was subjected to severe torture and forced to confess to a crime he did not commit.”

The rights advocate said that police in Pakistan were continuing to register blasphemy cases under ATA in violation of the intended mandate of the law.

“Rehman’s case underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive review of the laws and procedures related to blasphemy accusations to ensure fairness, protect the rights of the accused, and prevent potential abuses of power,” Jansen said.

Moreover, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are incompatible with international human rights standards, he said.

“The accuser who levels blasphemy allegations against any person is bound to prove malicious intent, but this stipulation is missing in legislation and is not taken into account during blasphemy trials,” Jansen said….

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