By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- A leading evangelical lawyer has asked a Pakistani top court to overturn the release on bail of "Muslim extremists" who were allegedly involved in anti-Christian attacks in the provincial capital Lahore.
Attorney Sardar Mushtaq Gill told BosNewsLife he petitioned the Lahore High Court on Friday, May 31, to order the detention of five released men amid allegations they threaten Christians, again.
Gulshad Khan, Khursheed Khan, Aitbar Gul, Jaffar Khan and Muhammad Shabir were among 83 Muslims granted bail on May 14, despite evidence they were involved in torching some 180 Christian-owned homes, shops and two churches in Lahore's Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood, Gill said.
"Giving bail means diminishing the seriousness of the crime. I expect before the end of June an answer from the court. If the court overturns the release on bail of the five suspects, it will set a precedent for the other cases as well," he added. "Perhaps all 83 suspects will be behind bars again."
The March 8-9 riots were sparked by Christian Savan Masih's alleged offensive remarks about Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Masih, who was soon detained by police under controversial blasphemy legislation, has denied wrongdoing.
"He has threatened to commit suicide by hitting his head to the prison wall," added his sister Bushra Bibi in comments obtained by BosNewsLife.
Residents said the problems began Friday, March 8, when Masih was refused a hair cut by the local barber shop's Muslim owner, Imran Shahid, triggering a heated exchange about religion between the two men.
Shahid, accompanied by supporters, reportedly told police that "drunk" Sawan Masih made "derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad."
Police said the young man was taken into custody pending an investigation into the blasphemy allegations.
POLICE PROTECTION URGED
However Christians say police are not doing enough to protect them against Muslims who were involved in the recent riots and are once again roaming the streets following their release. Bibi said Christians "feel threatened".
Local Christians are planning to leave the region, Gill added. "The situation remains very tense as Christians say they are threatened again by the same men."
Gill said he wondered why Muslims were released on bail while the 26-year-old Masih,a Christian, remains behind bars in a notorious Pakistani prison. "His family has asked me to try to get him out on bail," he explained.
He said his Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) supports him and other Christians facing persecution in the heavily Islamic nation.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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