Pakistan blasphemy law news from Compass Direct:
ISTANBUL, January 22 (Compass Direct News) — A Pakistani court last week acquitted a Christian “blasphemy” prisoner on grounds that the convict was mentally unstable, while another Christian facing the same accusation was released on bail.
Justice Muhammad Ijaz Chaudhry overturned Shahbaz Masih’s life sentence at a Lahore High Court hearing on Friday (January 19), citing evidence that the Christian was mentally handicapped. He has been incarcerated for more than five years.
The judge also noted that no one had seen Masih, 28, commit the alleged crime, defense lawyer Khalil Tahir Sindhu said.
A Faisalabad court condemned the Christian to 25 years in prison in September 2004 for allegedly tearing up a Quran in a Muslim graveyard in Faisalabad.
Though psychiatrist Dr. Pervez Ahmed had testified under oath that Masih suffered from a “bipolar effective disorder,” the mentally unstable man was found guilty under sections 295 A and B of Pakistan’s Penal Code, two of the country”s blasphemy laws.
Defense lawyer Sindhu told Compass that tomorrow he plans to secure his client’s release from Faisalabad District Jail’s mental ward, where he has been jailed since June 4, 2001.
“˜I will get him tomorrow and keep him in a secret place,” Sindhu said, noting that his client’s life may still be in danger from Muslim fanatics angered by the verdict.
Threats from radical groups have forced Masih’s family into hiding several times during the case. More than 60 armed Muslim clerics were present at the Christian’s final Faisalabad court hearing in 2004, chanting slogans and praising the judge and Islamic law when he was found guilty.