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Family of Pakistani blasphemy suspect demands answers

Father of Christian man who jumped from building in suicide attempt says his son is not a criminal
Family of Pakistani blasphemy suspect demands answers

Activists hold a protest in Karachi on Feb. 26 to call for Chief Justice Saqib Nisar to take action over the blasphemy case involving cousins Patras Masih and Sajid Masih. (ucanews.com photo)

Published: February 28, 2018 09:35 AM GMT
Updated: February 28, 2018 09:56 AM GMT

The family of a young Christian man who sustained serious injuries while allegedly escaping sexual abuse is demanding to know how he was implicated in a blasphemy case.

Sajid Masih, 24, was due to have surgery on Feb. 27 after jumping from the fourth floor of the Punjab headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in a suicide attempt on Feb. 23.

He was being interrogated with his cousin Patras Masih, 18, who was arrested on Feb. 19 for allegedly posting an insulting photo of the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad on a Facebook account.

Sajid claims he was being punished for an act allegedly committed by his cousin and that security authorities had ordered the two men to engage in a homosexual act as they attempted to force confessions from them both. Critics say police duress in such cases is common in Pakistan.

Abid Masih Ghouri, Sajid's father, was called by a government hospital official shortly after the suicide attempt that sparked a nationwide outcry from minority circles and civil society.

"My senses faded after seeing his bloody body on a hospital trolley. I have never cried so much in my life,"  Ghouri, 46, a sanitary worker, told ucanews.com.

"He can barely sit with support. His left eye is still filled with blood due to his broken jaw, but at least he is with us. He is not a criminal."

The family is now in hiding as church leaders, politicians, lawyers and activists of all faiths visit Sajid Masih, who is in police custody at Mayo Hospital.

Christian lawmakers are demanding that a joint investigation team take over the case.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, has condemned the "inhuman torture" of the cousins in FIA custody, saying the use of torture and illegal acts should always be condemned unanimously.

Christians from Dhir village, on the outskirts of Shahdara town, are slowly returning to their homes after fleeing in panic following protests by hard-line Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik.

But Ghouri has no plans to return to his village.

"This country has no space for us. We have no rights here. How can a policeman ask a citizen to perform oral sex with his own blood? I cannot imagine the filth in their minds. My eldest son had strong nerves. Why was he subjected to such humiliation?" said Ghouri.

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where mob attacks on Christian settlements and extrajudicial killings are common after allegations of insulting Islam.

The latest annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan claims 15 people, including five Christians, were accused of blasphemy in 2016. Two Christians and two Muslims were convicted and sentenced to death that year.

According to the Center for Social Justice, a Lahore-based research and advocacy group, between 1987 and 2016 at least 62 men and women were killed on suspicion of blasphemy.

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