Wednesday, July 17, 2013

RLPB 219. Pakistan: false claims, blasphemy and Interpol

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 219 | Wed 17 Jul 2013

PAKISTAN: FALSE CLAIMS, BLASPHEMY AND INTERPOL
-- PLUS update from Egypt

By Elizabeth Kendal


On 11 December 2011 Muslim clerics in Gojra reported to police that a Christian man by the name of Sajjad Masih, a resident of Pakpatten (a two-and-a-half-hour drive south-east of Gojra), had sent them blasphemous messages via mobile phone. Upon learning of the accusation, Sajjad immediately went into hiding. Eventually Christian leaders in Gojra convinced him to accompany them to the Gojra City Police Station so he could record his statement. Once the police had Sajjad in custody they refused to release him. Morning Star News reports that as soon as the Christian leaders left the police station, the police started beating Sajjad. To coerce a 'confession' they hung him upside down, connected his feet to electric wires and threatened to electrocute him. Sajjad 'confessed' and was transferred to Toba Tek Singh Prison. On Saturday 13 July 2013 the court in Toba Tek Singh District, Punjab Province, found Sajjad Masih (29) guilty of blasphemy. Sajjad was fined 200,000 Rupees (USD1980) and sentenced to life in prison.

The judge was not bothered that the case was full of anomalies. According to the prosecution, Sajjad Masih was engaged to Ruma Masih, a Christian girl in Gojra Christian Colony, who then betrayed him by marrying a man in the UK. It is alleged that the vindictive Sajjad then used a mobile phone SIM card that he purchased in Ruma's name to send blasphemous messages to clerics in Gojra in the hope that she would be blamed and punished for her 'betrayal'. The court accepted the prosecution's case despite a total lack of evidence. Morning Star News and Pakistan Christian Post both report that the prosecution was unable to produce the SIM card, the mobile phone, phone records or eye witnesses to support their case. Furthermore, evidence was provided to the effect that Sajjad had been in his office all day on the day the SIM card was alleged to have been purchased. Also, the complainant in the case, Tariq Saleem, backed down under cross-examination, confessing that he had been coerced by police to file the case when in truth he had never received a blasphemous message. Despite all this, Sajjad was charged, convicted and sentenced, all due to pressure from Islamic clerics.

If this were not enough, Indian Express reported on 14 July, 'Muslims and clerics of Gojra also pressured police to try Ruma under the blasphemy law.' So, 'On the request of police, the federal interior ministry sought a red corner notice [Red Notice] from Interpol for the arrest of Ruma in the UK but she is yet to be traced. Pakistani police have declared her a "proclaimed offender" or fugitive'. [To understand how Interpol can be abused in this way, see here.] According to Attorney Javed Sahotra, some 'young Muslim men' in Gojra had plotted against Sajjad Masih to 'punish him for being friends with a local Christian girl'. No-one has yet explained why they cared about Sajjad's relationship with Ruma. Maybe these young Muslim men framed Sajjad to get him out of the way. Perhaps they are seeking to punish Ruma for not submitting to their will.

This case shows how police actions and court rulings are being dictated by belligerent 'Muslims and clerics' rather than by law or reason whilst the government is either unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Clearly Pakistan is no longer ruled by law, but by vindictive and intolerant Muslims and clerics who persecute with impunity and dictate to police, judges and lawmakers. Even in the rare case of an acquittal, a person who has been accused of blasphemy is targeted for life. [See documentary: 'Murder in God's Name'.] Christians in Pakistan are living with a continuous threat to their life. When the rule of law collapses in a society infected with intolerance and hate, what is left to restrain evil?

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will cause Sajjad to be acquitted on appeal, and may he deliver both Sajjad and Ruma (with their extended families) from Islamic mischief and vindictiveness.  (Psalm 140)

* the Lord of Hosts will send his heavenly forces to restrain and pacify the Muslims and clerics of Gojra so that Gojra's vulnerable Christian Colony (ravaged by a deadly Islamic pogrom in August 2009) will be spared more violence.  (Psalm 57:1-3)

* our sovereign, redeeming God will intervene in Pakistan to graciously effect a breakthrough that will halt the decay and reverse the way being taken; may justice and righteousness be established for the sake of the Church and the 'harassed and helpless' Muslim masses who need to hear the gospel. (Matthew 9:36 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PAKISTAN -- FALSE CLAIMS, BLASPHEMY AND INTERPOL


Sajjad Masih (29) and his friend, Ruma Masih, two Christians from Punjab, have been falsely accused of blasphemy. On 13 July Sajjad (detained since December 2011) was sentenced to life in prison, despite a total absence of evidence and a retraction from the complainant who confessed to being coerced into filing a false claim. Ruma now lives in the UK. The actions of the Gojra police and the judgment of the Gojra court were not determined by law, but by belligerent Muslims and clerics in Gojra. First they forced the court to convict Sajjad and then made the police charge Ruma. Pakistan has issued an Interpol Red Notice against Ruma, so she might be arrested in the UK as a fugitive. Please pray for Pakistan and its imperilled Christians.

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UPDATE: EGYPT (updating RLPB 218).

There has been another assassination in North Sinai. Christian businessman Magdy Lamei had been kidnapped by Islamic militants in Sheikh Zuwayed on Saturday 6 July. This was the same day a Coptic priest was assassinated in neighbouring al-Arish. Lamei's bound and decapitated body was found dumped in the street on 11 July. He had been an active Christian who ministered in the church and regularly opened his home for prayers. Christians are fleeing from North Sinai.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)