Pakistan Brothers Remain Detained For Blasphemy

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

APTOPIX Pakistan Asia EclipseISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- Two Christian brothers remain detained on charges of blasphemy against Islam after one of them was accused of having "disrespectful material" on his website, a senior rights official confirmed to BosNewsLife Monday, July 20.

"A case has been registered against Qaisar and Amoon Ayub of Lahore relating to accusations dating back to 2011," said Nasir Saeed, a director of the Pakistan-based advocacy 'Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement' (CLAAS).

Qaisar reportedly closed the website in 2009 but Muslim Shahryar Gill managed to restore the site, while ownership remained in Qaisar’s Name, according to Christians familiar with the situation.

"CLAAS is providing both brothers with free legal aid and have visited them in Jhelum, jail," Saeed said. He added that his group is trying to apply for their release on bail "once the [Muslim] Eid holidays are over."

They are among several Christians jailed on charges of blasphemy that potentially carry the death penalty. Rights activists say the legislation is often misused to settle personal disputes or to target minority Christians who comprise roughly 2 percent of the country's 180-million population.

POLICE STATION

Qaiser Ayub, 41, was captured in November last year and held at a police station in the town of Talagang in Punjab’s Chakwal District, rights activists said at the time. He was transferred to the main Chakwal District jail, explained Sardar Mushtaq Gill, national director of advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).

Ayub tried to hide for police for some 3.5 years, after being charged with writing “blasphemous” remarks on his website, according to LEAD and other Christians.

Despite possible arrest Ayub, who graduated in computer sciences, had been teaching recently at a school in Lahore, apparently triggering a police warrant, BosNewsLife learned. His brother Amoon was detained soon after by the Immigrant Police at Lahore Airport while trying to leave the country, according to Christians familiar with the situation. "Later police sent him to District Jail Jhelum under the same offence as his brother," added Saeed.

The detentions has also added to suffering of their families, he explained. "Qaisar is married to Amina and they have three children, while Amoon is married to Huma who is a teacher at Cathedral School [in] Lahore [city]. Huma did all she could to get her husband releases, but she failed."

She approached CLAAS in June this year for legal aid and support, Saeed recalled. "Qaisar’s 14-year-old [son] became mentally unwell because of his father’s imprisonment, and CLAAS has arranged treatment for him and is trying its best possible to support both families."
Saeed said his group had asked Christians to "remember CLAAS’s lawyers and the families in...prayers".

(With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).   

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