By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani court has accepted a petition to cancel bail of 36 Muslims accused of involvement in last year’s anti-Christian violence in Lahore city, a major Christian advocacy group confirmed Monday, February 3.
The Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) said the Lahore High Court ruled that the released suspects will have to appear in court again because the attacks “resulted in a bad image of Pakistan as an unsafe place for minorities.”
No date was immediately available for the next hearing.
As many as 180 Christian-owned homes, shops and two churches were torched in Lahore’s Joseph Colony, a heavily Christian area, by an angry Muslim in March, 2013, according to rights investigators.
The 36 Muslims, who LEAD called “key suspects”, were reportedly among 83 Muslim hardliners released on bail in May last year.
LEAD said it had petitioned the court last year amid concerns the released suspects would carry out new attacks against Christians.
The March 8-9 unrest was sparked by Christian Savan Masih’s alleged derogatory remarks about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Masih had denied the blasphemy allegation but remains behind bars pending an investigation.
“We are deeply concerned about the safety of Christians accused of blasphemy,” added LEAD Director Sardar Mushtaq Gill. “Christians such as Sawan Masih, Asia Bibi, Asif Pervaiz and Pastor Adnan and others are in Pakistani jails awaiting justice,” Gill told BosNewsLife.
The case and detention of believers are part of a wider, sometimes deadly, campaign against Christianity in the Islamic country, suggested Gill, whose Pakistan-based group defends reportedly persecuted Christians.
“We have also deep concern about Christians in forced, bondage, labour and over reports that at least one Christian woman was recently brutally beaten and tortured by the owner of brick kiln in Kasur [district],and for those whose cases remain unreported” he said.
Impoverished Christians often face abuse by Muslim bosses and are effectively used as slaves under controversial bondage labour deals, according to rights groups.
Christians comprise some three percent of Pakistan’s over 193-million population, according to official estimates.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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