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Church leaders speak out against lockup deaths

Justice sought against Pakistan officers who allegedly kill suspects while in custody

 Shamim Masih, Gujranwala

Shamim Masih, Gujranwala

Published: January 20, 2016 09:38 AM GMT

Updated: January 20, 2016 10:53 AM GMT

Church leaders speak out against lockup deaths

Liaquat Masih's son grieves on hearing about the death of his father while in police custody in Punjab province. (Photo by  Shamim Masih) 

 

Catholic Church leaders in Pakistan are urging the government to take action against "extrajudicial killings" of religious minorities in police lockups.

The call comes following the death of a Catholic man while in police custody.

Liaquat Masih, 47, was allegedly beaten to death at a police station in Gujranwala district of Punjab province, Jan. 14.

The man, a driver, was arrested after his employer registered a case of theft.

Family members say Liaquat was brutally tortured, hung naked with his hands tied behind his back and beaten in the hope he would confess to the crime.

Father Emmanuel Gill, his parish priest, personally called on Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif to order an investigation into the incident.

He said he obtained the autopsy report from the hospital and has registered a case against the police.

"We demand justice from the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court and request the Punjab chief minister take strict action against the killers of this innocent Christian," the priest said.

Sajid Mehmood, the police station commander said Liaquat died of a heart attack.

Following the death, hundreds of local Christians staged a protest demanding and inquiry against policemen responsible. Police resorted to a baton charge to disperse the crowds. Many were injured and also taken to the police lockup.

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The majority of Christians in Pakistan live in Punjab province.

Cecil Chaudhry, director of National Justice and Peace Commission, a human rights body of Catholic Church, called for a fresh autopsy to determine the actual cause of Laquat’s death.

"Our coordinator has already submitted an application for carrying out a fresh postmortem to get more facts. We demand a fair probe," he said.

"Unfortunately, our legal system is very complicated and makes it difficult for the vulnerable section of the society to get justice," he added.

The alleged extrajudicial killing of Liaquat is not the first incident of its kind. In 2009, Robert Danish, who was detained following a minor brawl with Muslims, allegedly died as a result of torture at a police lockup in Sialkot district of Punjab.  

Qamar David, accused of blasphemy, was found dead at a jail in Lahore in 2011. Another Christian Zubair Rashid was also allegedly killed while in police custody last year.

In all these cases, police were exonerated after saying the suspects either committed suicide or died due to health complications.  

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