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Protests after Pakistan blasphemy suspect attempts suicide

Christian community 'in a state of shock and fear' amid calls for an inquiry into claims of torture and sexual assault

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Protests after Pakistan blasphemy suspect attempts suicide

Rawadari Tehreek members hold a protest on Feb. 26 at Lahore Press Club to demand justice. (ucanews.com photo)

Church and human rights groups took to the streets of two Pakistani cities to demand a judicial inquiry into the alleged torture and sexual assault of Christian relatives being questioned for blasphemy.

Sajid Masih, a Christian resident of Shahadra near Lahore, jumped from the fourth floor of the Punjab headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Feb. 24 in a suicide attempt while he was being interrogated with his cousin.

His cousin, Patras Masih, 18, was arrested on Feb. 19 for allegedly posting an insulting photo of the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad on a Facebook account.

Sajid was taken to Mayo Hospital with critical injuries but is said to be out of danger.

In a short video posted on social media, Sajid accused FIA investigators of torture and sexual abuse. He claimed he had been told to sexually assault his cousin.

Patras was arrested after a member of hard-line Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik accused him of posting objectionable material on Facebook.

Despite his arrest, an angry mob surrounded Christian homes, forcing hundreds of terrified families to flee. They returned only after assurances that they would not be harmed.

Kamran Michael, a Christian member of Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi's cabinet, met FIA officials on Feb. 25 and called for an inquiry.

Kashif Aslam, program coordinator for the Pakistan Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), and other activists met Sajid's doctors on Feb. 26.

"His blood pressure is not stable. He suffered multiple injuries including fractures to his jaw, ribs and legs. We are now waiting for the results of medical tests," Aslam told ucanews.com

Patras Masih has been placed in judicial remand in a police station.

 

Activists hold a protest in Karachi on Feb. 26 to call for Chief Justice Saqib Nisar to take action. (ucanews.com photo)

 

Rawadari Tehreek (movement for tolerance), an interfaith organization, held a protest on Feb. 26 at Lahore Press Club, where about 30 activists demanded justice for the cousins.

Representatives of church organizations including the NCJP and Caritas Lahore held placards stating "The one who is silent is also an offender."

A small protest was also organized in Karachi, where activists called for Chief Justice Saqib Nisar to take control of the situation.

"The Christian community is in a state of shock and fear. We appeal to the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of torture and sexual abuse with Sajid Masih and his cousin Patras Masih," Saleem Michael, a human rights lawyer, told ucanews.com in Karachi.

"The Punjab government has totally failed to protect minorities. This is a small protest, but if the federal and provincial governments fail to act against the FIA's officers, we will spread this movement to the entire country."

Jibran Nasir, a human rights activist, condemned the misuse of blasphemy laws and Pakistan's mob mentality.

"Police wasted no time in charging Patras Masih with blasphemy. But will there be any action against the Tehreek-e-Labaik goons who surrounded Christian homes and terrorized families?" he asked.

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