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Pakistani prosecutor tells 42 Christians to convert to Islam to escape murder charges


Lahore, Pakistan Credit: Usman Malik/Flickr/Creative Commons

Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan Credit: Usman Malik/Flickr/Creative Commons

After Muslim extremists blew up a Catholic church in Lahore, Pakistan in 2015 killing 14 and injuring 75, Christians took to the streets. In the mayhem that followed, the police captured two Muslim men accused of the brutal bombing and handed them over to a Christian crowd who then lynched the Muslims.

After the two Muslim men were murdered, Pakistani authorities arrested 500 Christians and kept most of them in jail for nearly 18 months under brutal treatment that included torture.

However, after finding most had nothing to do with the crime, about 450 were let go, leaving 42 men still in prison.

The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) that is monitoring the situation and providing legal help to the those arrested was horrified by the killing of the two Muslim men, but it said that at least 30 of the men still in jail had nothing to do with the crime.

The BPCA then reported on a disturbing story published in a national Pakistani paper, The Express Tribune. The paper wrote about a bizarre exchange that took place between the chief prosecutor in the trial, Syed Anees Shah, and the jailed Christians.

Shah reportedly told the men that if they converted to Islam, all of them would be allowed to go free. One man responded that he would rather hang than become a Muslim.

This was not the first time the prosecutor had made the offer. Members of the group said they had been given the same choice privately, but none accepted.

The Tribune contacted the prosecutor to ask if he had made such an offer. At first Shah denied it, but his tone changed after the paper said it had a video recording of the exchange.

Advocate Counsel Naseeb Anjun who represents some of the accused men said:

“The fact that Christian men could be spared a death penalty by simply renouncing their Christian faith and accepting Islam is a clear indication that either extremists have infiltrated the Justice system of Pakistan, or that the nation is full of zealots that will stop at nothing to convert ‘kaffir’ (infidels).”

Pakistan has a population of 201 million people and 96% are Muslim. Muslim extremists routinely use the courts to discriminate against Christians.

In January, The Daily Mail reported a Muslim man accused a Pakistani Christian of blasphemy for desecrating the Qur’an which is subject to the death penalty.

Shabbaz Babu, 42, is accused of ripping pages out of the Qur’an and throwing them on the ground in front of a Lahore Mosque.

Police say Babu, an Evangelical Christian, had written his name on one of the pages of the Qur’an which led to the charge.

However, the British Pakistani Christian Association reports that the man who accused Babu of blasphemy is coincidentally involved in a business dispute with Babu’s family. It added that Babu is illiterate and not able to write his name.

Speaking on behalf of BPCA, William Choudry said:

“In every blasphemy case in Pakistan common-sense flies out of the window as a corrupt and incredibly inadequate police force goes about its business with prejudice and avarice.”

Sources:

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