By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Three Muslims were in prison Monday, July 25, after a Pakistani court convicted them of killing a Christian for refusing to convert to Islam, confirmed attorney’s of the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) in Pakistan.
The Sessions Court in Mian Channu area of Punjab province sentenced Ghulam Rasool, Amjad Iqbal and Kashir Saleem to life imprisonment for torturing and killing Rasheed Masih on March 9, 2010, explained ECLJ which assisted theChristian’s family. Life imprisonment in Pakistan is 25 years.
Each convict will also have to pay 100,000 Pakistani rupees (roughly $1,200) as compensation to Masih’s family, ECLJ said in a statement seen by BosNewsLife.
Another suspect, identified as Muhammad Asif, was acquitted, the advocacy group added. “We are pleased to announce that we have won a victory for a persecuted Christian family in Pakistan. Masih’s family is thankful to the ECLJ for standing with them,” the group said.
Before he was killed, Masih was a successful potato merchant in the area of Mian Channu, Christians said. ECLJ quoted Asi, Masih’s brother, as saying that Muslim businessmen were “jealous of his brother’s success because he was a Christian.”
On March 9, 2010, Masih went to the defendants’ place for a business deal. During their meeting, the defendants reportedly asked Masih to convert to Islam. When he refused, the four Muslims beat him with iron rods and killed him, according to ECLJ investigators.
“A bystander informed Masih’s brother, who then called the police. Masih’s brother and the police found Masih smeared with blood. They rushed him to the hospital, but he died on the way after stating to the police that he was tortured by Rasool and his accomplices,” the group said.
Pakistani police initially denied that Masih ever gave such a statement and refused to charge or arrest the defendants, according to Christians.
A large number of Christians blocked an intercity highway and demanded that the killers be arrested. The police eventually conceded after the Christian community protested for five hours while blocking the highway, ECLJ said.
“This callous treatment by the police presented lots of challenges in proving that Masih was killed by the defendants. However, extensive work by our legal team in Pakistan and in the United States resulted in a conviction for the three defendants in this case,” the ECLJ added.
There was no immediate reaction from police officials. However the case comes at a time of rising tensions between Muslim hardliners and Christians in the predominantly Islamic nation where several Christians remain detained on charges of “blasphemy” under controversial legislation, according to rights activists.
The ECLJ said it also plans to file an appeal in the Lahore High Court concerning the acquittal of the fourth defendant.The European Centre for Law and Justice, headquartered in Strasbourg, France, is an international, Non-Governmental Organization dedicated to “the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide.”