Pakistan: Christian Falsely Accused of Blasphemy Released After Five Years

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

April 10, 2006 (Voice of the Martyrs) -- VOM contacts in Pakistan reported on April 8th that Pakistani Christian, Parvez Masih, who was arrested and jailed under false blasphemy charges five years ago in April 2001, was released. After years of inhumane treatment, threats, beatings and trials, the headmaster of a private Christian middle school was found not guilty of violating Law 295C (blaspheming the prophet Mohammed).

When Parvez Masih’s Iqbal Memorial School (comprised of 25 Christian and 125 Muslims students in 2004) was gaining influence in a village near Lahore, Pakistan early in 2001, the jealousy of a Muslim group running a rivaling school was roused. Shortly thereafter, some of Parvez’ students asked him if it was true that Mohammed had a nine-year-old wife, to which he graciously mentioned her name, “Aisha,” while telling them to find more information about her in the Koran.

Based on the testimonies of two of the questioning boys, Parvez was arrested on April 1, 2001 and accused of blaspheming Mohammed under Law 295C. He was taken to a nearby river and told to deny his faith in Jesus at gunpoint on this date, but he would not. The accusations are believed to have been instigated by a teacher of the rival school. While in prison, eight cellmates have fought with Parvez many times, and he has suffered three police beatings.

On December 7, 2003, local Muslim leaders made a public announcement for community members to assemble against Parvez at the December 9th courthouse hearing to pressure the judge into making a quick guilty verdict. About 60 appeared at the courtroom, wanting the judge to hand Parvez over if a speedy conviction was not decided, but police drove the radical Muslims away.

During the trial(s), a witness for Parvez’ defense, Muhammad Yaqoob, was frightened by threats of the prosecuting party and withdrew his support from the case. The chief accuser in the case, Muhammad Ibraham, challenged another key witness, Muhammad Younas, “Why did you support the Christian?” to which he replied, “I only spoke the truth.”

For years, The Voice of the Martyrs has been helping to support Parvez and his family, who have run the Christian school in his absence. The financial hardship due to Parvez’ imprisonment has hurt the school, as attendance decreased from 150 in 2004 to 70 in 2005. VOM’s monthly assistance to the Masih family went to help pay for Parvez’ medicine, clothing and food expenses in jail, as well as for family members to travel to the court hearings and meet other financial needs.