By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A pastor, who had been languishing in a Pakistani jail since October for “blaspheming Islam”, was free on bail Thursday, February 28, after the complainant admitted he had mistakenly charged him, Christians said.
Karma Patras, 55, was detained by police October 13, when a Muslim mob attacked his home in Sanghla Hill in central Punjab province.
The violence broke out after Patras was holding a prayer meeting in the house of a Christian family where the Islamic sacrifice feast, Eid-Ul-Adha, was discussed, BosNewsLife reported earlier.
During the gathering, someone reportedly asked what Eid-Ul-Adha’s offered meat meant to Christians.
Patras gave an answer that apparently included quoting Bible verse Corinthians 10:28-29: “But if anyone says to you, ‘This was offered to idols’, do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?”
Muslim neighbors who overheard the discussion quickly told other Muslims, Christians said. When Patras returned home, Imams reportedly used mosque loudspeakers to urge fellow Muslims to punish the pastor “for prohibiting Eid-Ul-Adha” to Christians.
Shouting “Pastor Karma Patras is a blasphemer and infidel, liable to be killed,” hundreds of Muslims attacked Patras’ home, according to witnesses. Police initially rescued Patras from a mob that was seen beating him and destroying his household, but later charged the pastor under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, rights activists said.
However his main accuser, identified as Syed Zulqernain Shah, told a Sangla Hill court that he had wrongly accused the pastor of blasphemy and that he had no objections against his release, attorneys explained.
Though prosecutors objected, the judge said the pastor could be released on bail since the main witness had withdrawn his statement, according to trial observers.
The exact bail amount was not revealed and it was not immediately clear when a next hearing would be held in what is a volatile area.
Sangla Hill itself was the scene of several Islamic attacks against churches and other Christian institutions in homes in recent years, after reportedly unsubstantiated desecration of the Koran, seen as a holy book by Muslims.
In one the worst cases, some 2,000 Muslims attacked several churches in 2005 after Christian Yousaf Masih was accused of burning a Koran. Masih was later acquitted after his accuser, identified as Mohamed Saleem, said he had not seen him torching a building used to store copies of the Islamic book.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws carry a potential death sentence for anyone who insults Islam, with suspects often languishing for years in jail before their appeals are heard. Critics claim the legislation has been used to persecute minority faiths and to settle personal disputes.
Over a dozen people are known to be on death row over blasphemy allegations and more than 50 people have been killed while awaiting trial on similar charges, according to rights activists.
Two politicians, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, and Christian federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were assassinated in 2011 for criticizing the country’s blasphemy law.
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