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Catholic World News News Feature

Pakistan Christians Acquitted Of Blasphemy February 01, 2001

LAHORE, Feb. 1, 01 (CWNews.com/Fides) - Christians in Pakistan scored a legal and moral victory when three Christians accused of committing blasphemy were acquitted. The complainant is now being investigated for filing a false claim.

Hussain Masih, his son Isaac Masih, and Lqbal Sehar Ghauri of Alipur Chatha, Gujranwala, were arrested and detained for months on a charge of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed. On January 25, the judges of Lahore High Court stated there was no evidence against the accused and ordered their immediate release.

In 1998 the three men were accused of desecrating the Qu'ran and using derogatory remarks against Mohammed. The complaint was lodged by Ejaz Ahmad, a Muslim neighbor who said he found torn pages of the Qu'ran with blasphemous scribbling on his front lawn. He told the police he suspected his Christian neighbors, Hussain and Isaac Masih, and that they had been instigated by Lqbal Sehar Ghauri. The latter was arrested immediately, although he was later released on bail.

Hussain Masih was also arrested and detained for seven months before being released on bail in 1999. His son Isaac went into hiding and was later declared a proclaimed offender by the court.

On January 25, the General Advocate of the state ruled that no direct and circumstantial evidence existed and ordered the release of the accused and the investigation of the complainant for registration of a false and fabricated case.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops' Conference, who assisted in the case, said: "We are pleased with the acquittal and pray that all innocent people held under false charges may be released soon." Father Mani said he hopes all unjust laws will be repealed, such as the blasphemy law and the separate election law (citizens may only vote for candidates of the same religion).

Other Christians, Father Arnold Heredia and two lay men, arrested on January 10 in Karachi for taking part in a non-violent protest against the blasphemy law, were released on January 16. However, Khalid and Nasir Masih, two young Protestants arrested on January 11, are still in prison on a charge of proselytism for distributing Christian literature and a "Jesus" film.

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