CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 May 2017

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Convert to Islam and walk free

 

LAHORE (UCAN): A large group of some 60 Christians facing charges over their involvement in the lynching of two people in Pakistan was told by the prosecuting lawyer, Syed Anees Shah, that if they would agree to convert to Islam he would have all charges against them dropped.

The 60 are on trial for the mob murder of two men who were mistakenly believed to have been involved in the bombing of two churches, one Catholic and one belonging to the Christ Church in the Youhanabad district of Lahore, on 15 March 2015.

Fifteen people died in the two terrorist attacks and 72 were wounded.

Later an angry mob abducted two suspects from police custody, beat them severely before killing them. Passers-by identified the culprits.

Over 100 Christians were rounded up in the wake of the incident and put on trial.

Sohail Habel, from the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, an interdenominational organisation working for persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said, “How can we expect justice when people sitting in courts are inwardly biased? We demand that the government takes action against the public prosecutor.”

He added, “In my 13 years of human rights activism, I have seen many such offers made to non-Muslim prisoners,” adding that a legal team from his organisation was supporting the people on trial and trying to dissuade them from capitulating.

Bishop Joseph Arshad, from Faisalabad, condemned the pressurising of the Christian prisoners.

“Justice must be done according to the law. Nobody has authority to give such offers if they were really made,” he said.

The Express Tribune, a local English daily, quoted Syed as saying that he did not ask them to embrace Islam, but conceded that he offered them a choice. When he was told that the accused have a recording of the offer, he disconnected the call.

Aftab Gill, the information secretary of the Christian Masiha Millat Party, condemned the offer. “I was present at the court when the prosecutor made the offer. Several Christians confirmed receiving the offer to embrace Islam in return for acquittal,” he noted.

“We appeal to the chief justice of the supreme court to pursue action against the prosecutor,” he continued.

“We have full faith in our legal system and judiciary. But if such people are allowed to go unpunished, vulnerable minorities will lose hope,” Gill concluded.

 

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