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Pakistan: Christian has spent more than four years in prison on false blasphemy charge

The persecution of Christians in Pakistan is frequently justified by that nation’s draconian blasphemy laws, and here we see another example of how those laws can be abused. Christians in Pakistan are sometimes targeted with accusations of blasphemy that are just a cover for attempts to settle personal grudges, appropriate their property, or achieve some other end. 

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

“Christian in Pakistan Wrongly Jailed without Trial, Lawyer Says,” Morning Star News, June 16, 2022:

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A young Christian in Pakistan has spent more than four years in jail on a false blasphemy charge as courts have delayed processes due to Islamist bias and discrimination against him, his attorney said.

Patras Masih was 18 years old when he was accused in February 2018 of sharing a photo posted on Facebook deemed insulting to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, triggering protests by Islamic extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, now known as Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan. The protests sent hundreds of Christian families fleeing from their homes in the Shahdara Town area of Lahore.

“There’s a clear hatred toward Patras that I fail to comprehend – the courts simply don’t want to hear his case because of the involvement of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan,” his attorney, Aneeqa Maria of The Voice Society, told Morning Star News.

She said the prejudice and discrimination Masih and his defense team have faced from trial and superior courts is “unprecedented” in her career. In the last four years her team has filed five bail petitions in the Lahore High Court, including one last month, and one in the Supreme Court, without success.

“I was extremely disappointed when the Lahore High Court flatly refused to give bail to Patras last month,” Maria said. “The judge refused to listen to my argument and outright directed me to approach the Supreme Court. Despite the threats, humiliation and insults we have faced in the courts in Patras’ case, we are still hoping and praying that Patras’ case is taken up by some unprejudiced judge of the Supreme Court.”

She said trial and appellate courts were treating Masih unfairly despite the accusations being “nothing but a pack of lies with no evidence whatsoever.”

“From the beginning of the case, the trial court has shown bias and discrimination towards Patras,” Maria told Morning Star News.

Both the high court and Supreme Court denied bail in spite of the lack of evidence in the case and ignored the statutory grounds for granting it – Section 497 of the Criminal Procedure Code stipulates if a trial has not concluded within two years and the delay is not due to the accused, bail may be granted.

The trial court not only declined all applications for bail but presented a false report when the Lahore High Court ordered it to explain the delays, she said.

“In the report, the trial court blamed us for causing delay, whereas its own record and orders show that our legal team was present in each hearing to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses, but they did not show up,” Maria said.

Appellate courts ordered the trial court to expedite the proceedings, but those directions fell on deaf ears, and the case is being transferred from one judge to another, she said….

Pakistan ranked eighth on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country had the second-highest number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Nigeria, with 620 slain during the reporting period from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021. Pakistan had the fourth-highest number of churches attacked or closed, with 183, and overall.

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