European members of parliament seek Pak EU envoy's intervention for release of accused in blasphemy case

·3-min read
Representative Image
Representative Image

Brussels [Belgium], July 14 (ANI): Several members of European parliament have written to Zaheer Aslam Janjus, ambassador of Pakistan to the European Union, seeking his intervention in an alleged blasphemy case against Shahzad Masih so that the accused is released and compensation is given to him for the time spent in jail.

According to an official release, five members of European Parliament said that despite lack of evidence, Masih's trial has continued for nearly 4 years.

The letter was endorsed by Jan Figel, former European Commissioner & European Commission's Special Envoy for the Protection of Religion outside the European Union (EU).

The members of European parliament (MEPs) called for Masih's immediate release and compensation on account of undue harassment and detention.

The 5 MEPs included Bert-Jan Ruissen, MEP, vice-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance; Carlo Fidanza, MEP, co-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance; Miriam Lexmann, MEP; Nicolas Bay, MEP; and Francois-Xavier Bellamy MEP.

In a related development, Amnesty International has also called for repealing Pakistan's blasphemy laws that have been used to target the country's already endangered minorities. According to Amnesty International, these laws violate Pakistan's obligations to respect human rights and pave the way for other abuses, including death threats and killings.

"Through this letter, we, Members of the European Parliament, would like to share our concern regarding a pending case in Pakistan: State v. Shahzad Masih, FIR No. 273/2017, currently under trial at the District and Sessions Courts in Gujarat. We write to you because of the worrying nature of what we have been told about the case," the letter read.

Masih was accused of blasphemy in 2017 for merely telling his coworker what someone else had said. The Muslim coworker started a religious conversation and Masih told him that a friend of his father swears whenever he hears that someone has Muhammad in his name.

A complaint was lodged at Police Station Dinga in Kharian, Gujrat against Masih.

The Superintendent of the Police (SP) investigated and concluded there was no blasphemy on the part of Masih. He testified in court that he did not declare Masih guilty in his investigation and that an eye-witness did not hear any insult for the Prophet in Masih's conversation. Nonetheless, the prosecutor's office brought charges and the case went to trial.

During trial, all of the prosecution's witnesses testified that Masih was merely stating someone else's words and thereby informing others of another person's blasphemy.

Despite the lack of evidence against him, his trial has taken almost four years. Masih has spend those years in jail. This is clearly in contradiction with fundamental rights and Pakistani law.

"We call on you to quickly intervene in this case and, should our information be confirmed, to drop the charges against Masih, to immediately release him, to accord him reasonable compensation for the undue time he has spent in prison, and to provide adequate protection should he be released from prison," the letter added. (ANI)

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