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'Police pressure' forced Pakistan pastor shooting confession

Eliezer Sidhu was allegedly attacked weeks after an anti-Christian riot in Jaranwala neighborhood of Faisalabad
A team from Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) visit Pastor Eliezer Sidhu in a hospital in Faisalabad, in Pakistan.

A team from Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) visit Pastor Eliezer Sidhu in a hospital in Faisalabad, in Pakistan. (Photo: HRFP)

Published: October 02, 2023 08:37 AM GMT
Updated: October 05, 2023 06:18 AM GMT

A Pakistani human rights group has refuted police claims that a Christian pastor staged his own shooting in order to seek refuge in another country.

Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) accused police in Faisalabad, in Punjab province of coercing and pressuring Presbyterian pastor, Eliezer Sidhu, alias "Vicky," to confess he staged the "incident" for self-gain.

The group, however, welcomed the granting of bail for the pastor along with two other Christians — Johnson Masih and Gulfam Masih — on Sept. 30.

The pastor was recently terminated by his church after the alleged fake shooting story emerged. He and the two others were arrested on Sept. 28.

Islamic hardliners alleged that Pakistani Christians exploit blasphemy cases to seek asylum abroad.

The HRFP claimed the pastor was severely injured in an attack in Faisalabad on Sept. 3, when he was stopped and asked to embrace Islam by a bearded man and then shot in the shoulder after he refused.

The pastor earlier claimed he was targeted after Islamic slogans appeared on the outer wall of Nazareth Church in Faisalabad which he managed. One of the slogans said: “Pastor Vicky should be cursed.”

Police removed the slogans on Aug. 29 after he registered a complaint.

The incident came days after an anti-Christian riot in the Jaranwala neighborhood of Faisalabad on Aug. 16 which saw 21 churches and hundreds of Christian houses attacked, vandalized and set on fire.

After the shooting, the pastor was rushed to a local hospital and then placed in police custody, HRFP said. Police also detained and questioned six Christians known to be his associates.

Following his release from police custody, Sidhu said he was forced to give a statement recorded on video that he shot himself.

From Sept. 18, police kept the pastor confined to his home, the group said. His movements were restricted, and no one was allowed to meet him.  

He was produced before a court on Sept. 23 and placed in police custody again before bail was granted on Sept. 30.

HRFP president Naveed Walter said their team met the pastor and expressed their solidarity.

Walter said the shooting was just another “aftershock” of the Jaranwala violence and such cases have been reported in other parts of the country such as Karachi, Sarghodha, and Rawalpindi.

He said the HRFP wanted guarantees that Sidhu and the other accused are protected and that Sidhu's assailant be brought to justice.

He said Sidhu's life is in danger and he is in need of medical treatment.

The police and authorities will be held responsible if the real perpetrators are not arrested and something happens to Sidhu, his family members and the other accused, Walter added.

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