Pakistan Christians Facing Death Penalty

 

By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos

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Detentions come amid concerns over attacks against Churches and other Christian sites in heavily Islamic Pakistan.


LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- Three Pakistani Christians face a possible death sentence on what a lawyer says are "trumped up charges" of "blasphemy" against Islam, while other Christians are reportedly forced to become Muslims.

Among those detained is Asif Pervaiz who was arrested in the city of Lahore on October 2 after allegedly sending mobile phone text messages with "abusive language against Muslims, Islam, Prophet Mohammed and the Koran," said lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, who is involved in the case.

"The defendant claims his 'sim' card", which operates the phone, "was taken and misused by some colleagues who had some disputes with him."

Prosecutors reportedly said they have strong evidence against the Christian.

Yet, "I believe his innocence can be proven if the investigation is fair by just checking the location from where the sim card was used," added Gill, who is also director of advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).

CHRISTIANS IDENTIFIED

Two other Christians, identified as Pastor Adnan and Mushtaq Masih, the owner of the New Diamond Glass Shop in Lahore, were also behind bars Wednesday, October 16, for allegedly writing "derogatory remarks" about Islam.

"The remarks were allegedly written between texts in a book about Islam in the shop. But I believe we can prove the defendants were not responsible for those making these filthy remarks."

Security forces are also searching for the pastor's brother, Arfan Masih, and briefly detained a man with a similar name, Gill told BosNewsLife. "They raided the house of Arfan Amin. We could help him to be freed after proving he wasn't the person they were searching for," the lawyer explained.

He said in all cases the Christians are falsely charged with violating the most sensitive articles of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy legislation, "which can mean they faith death bu hanging."

Additionally, devoted Christians have been targeted by Muslim militants, Gill explained.

GUNMEN THREATEN

"Days back we received some heart breaking information that there is one group who forced Christians to accept Islam at gun point." No more details were immediately available but the gunmen were reportedly detained.

Gill said LEAD had urged prayers for persecuted Christians in Pakistan, amid mounting concern about rising extremism in this heavily Islamic nation.

Earlier this week, a Pakistani Christian family said it was hiding after allegedly receiving death threats for protesting against twin suicide attacks at a historic church in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar, in which their friends were killed.

In total at least 171 people died and some 150 people were believed to have been injured in the September blasts at Peshawar's All Saints Church.

(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).

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