Court bails 35 suspected of arson attack on Christians
Advocates now gloomy over prospects for justice
The Lahore High Court has accepted bail requests from 35 of the suspects named in the arson attack on Joseph Colony, a Christian enclave in the city, on March 9.
The suspects come from a total of 83 listed in the first information report from the police.
The attack by a mob of up to 2,000 Muslims was sparked by an allegation of blasphemy committed by a Christian. It necessitated the rebuilding of 178 houses and two churches that were burned to the ground in the rioting.
Earlier this month the Punjab government suspended a city police superintendent after a lawyer representing the police department told the Supreme Court that they deliberately avoided confronting the “religiously charged mob.”
The granting of bail to almost half the named suspects has dismayed the Christian community and its advocates.
“We are distressed by the faulty investigation and devious methods used by irresponsible officials,” said Joseph Francis, national director of Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement. “They have conspired with the suspects. Bail applications are being accepted readily. The police have become the plaintiff and the judge has become the law.”
Francis also alleges that a top police investigator involved in the case has been seen in his car with some of the suspects.
“We wanted this trial to be a test case to prevent further tragedies,” he said. “But we are afraid the suspects will go free, as in previous cases of arson attacks on Christian settlements.”
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