By Worthy News Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News) -- Two Pakistani Christians remained detained Thursday, June 25, on false charges of "blasphemy" and "robbery", advocacy groups said.
Asia Bibi, 37, was reportedly detained by police on allegations of blasphemy in the village of Ittanwali in Punjab province on June 19, following heated discussions about Islam with Muslim women who work with her on a farm.
"Bibi told them that Christ died on the cross for their sins and asked them what Mohammed had done for them," said Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), which monitored the case. "Our Christ is the true prophet of God and yours is not true," Bibi reportedly said.
The Muslim women allegedly became angry and began to beat her. "Some men then locked her in a room. Muslims announced from mosque loudspeakers a plan to punish Bibi by blackening her face and parading her through the village on a donkey. Local Christians informed police, who took Bibi into custody before Muslims could carry out their plan," VOMC said.
She was believed to held Thursday, June 25, at a police station in Nankana city and local Christians were urging the police not to file blasphemy charges.
However, police officials reportedly said they must go forward due to pressure from local Muslim leaders. It came as elsewhere another 37-year-old Christian in Punjab province, Arshad Masih, was reportedly languishing in a Sialkot jail because his father was preaching Christ.
He had been in a hospital – chained to his bed on "false robbery charges" – after police torture that began December 28, 2008 left him incapacitated, said the Community Development Initiative (CDI), a support group that is providing Masih legal assistance.
He was discharged from Allama Iqbal Memorial Hospital in the city of Sialkot Saturday, June 20, but apparently returned to jail despite CDI efforts to get him released.
CDI said Masih was held on orders from a police station in the city of Gujranwala, where Masih’s father, Iqbal Masih, had been preaching Christ. His father linked the detention of his son to his work as a preacher.
A court reportedly ordered him released on bail after complainants didn't recognize him as a robber. However the court orders never arrived at a jail as police Sialkot police officers had him transferred to them for a new robbery case involving "unidentified people," CDI said.
Gujranwala police reportedly also threatened to kill Masih if told the court that he had been tortured. The cases come at a time of mounting religious tensions in Pakistan, where Christians have been held in several prisons on blasphemy and other charges.
Church groups say authorities have in several cases been reluctant or unwilling to support Christians, amid rising Islamic extremism in the mainly Muslim country.