Father and Son get Life for blasphemy

Court convicts imam, son for blasphemy

MULTAN: A court has jailed an imam and his 20-year-old son for life on blasphemy charges in Muzaffargarh, court officials said on Tuesday.

The case follows the killing of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by his bodyguard last Tuesday, after he called for reform of the law that was recently used to sentence a *Christian woman to death.

Muhammad Shafi, 45, and his son Muhammad Aslam, 20, were arrested in April last year for removing a poster outside their grocery shop advertising an Islamic event in a nearby village which allegedly contained Quranic verses.

Judge Muhammad Ayub, heading an anti-terrorism court, handed down a life sentence to the pair on Monday, his assistant Faisal Karim told AFP by telephone.

The prosecution alleged organisers of the event, which commemorated the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) birth, said the pair had “pulled the poster down, tore it and trampled it under their feet”, Karim said. “The judge sentenced them to life imprisonment on charges of blasphemy and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs200,000 each,” he said.

Defence counsel Arif Gurmani vowed to challenge the verdict in the high court because “it has been given in haste” and was the result of inter-faith rivalries, he said. afp

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/

* Aasia Bibi
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PAKISTAN: The killing of two Christian brothers

AHRC-STM-151-2010
July 20, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: The killing of two Christian brothers is the result of the negligence and bias of the Punjab government and police

The abuse of the Blasphemy law, misuse of mosque loudspeakers and the impunity offered to Muslim extremists are the main causes of the persecution of religious minorities.

The shooting deaths of Rashid Emmanuel and in broad daylight in front of hundreds of people in the district courts compound in Faisalabad on July 19 came as no surprise. As was expected Muslim extremists carried out the murder just five days after the issuance of an Urgent Appeal by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in which it was feared that they were vulnerable to attack. The AHRC had also demanded that immediate action be taken to provide protection for the men so that their case might be taken up in accordance with the laws and procedures of the country. Please see the Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-102-2010.

The investigation officer of Police, Mr. Muhammad Hussain was also seriously injured during the attack as he tried to seize one of the attackers all of whom escaped unhindered. The two brothers had been arrested on charges of Blasphemy on the complaint of a printer on July 2, 2010.

Both brothers were produced before the court of Civil Judge, Mr. Aamir Habib, for their remand. Banned Muslim extremist groups, which enjoy freedom from the government of Punjab province, made announcements through the mosque loudspeakers asking Muslims to gather at the district courts building when the Christian brothers would be produced. They also spread rumors one day before that the Christian brothers would be free to go home from the Civil Lines Police Station, Faisalabad.

During the court proceedings the investigating officer told the court that there was no evidence of Blasphemy against the brothers and that therefore the police had no cause to further remand them in custody. The court ordered that Rashid Emmanuel and Sajjid Emmanuel be held in Judicial custody until the next date to issue further orders.

As both the brothers came out from the court suddenly some persons emerged from the crowd and opened fire at them. The elder brother Rashid died instantly whereas the younger one Sajjid died on the way to hospital. The police officer, Muhammad Hussain also received a bullet injury and is in critical condition.

Despite the threats by extremist elements from the banned Muslim militant groups to kill the Christian brothers the administration of Faisalabad city and the Punjab government did not take any security measures for their protection. Only three police officials, including the investigation officer, were assigned for the production of the accused brothers at the court whereas the Christian community had already asked the administration to provide sufficient policemen to protect them.

The AHRC has also mentioned in its Urgent Appeal that violent rallies by radical Muslims in the area have called for the men’s death, and Christians have reportedly begun to leave the neighbourhood. They fear that a new attack is planned for the end of the month, around the anniversary of a deadly attack on Christians 50km away in Korian village, Tehsil Gojra where six people were set alight and burned to death. Mosque loudspeakers are also being freely used to incite violence, which is illegal.

The killing of the Christian brothers in broad daylight was due to the sheer negligence and biased attitude of the Punjab provincial government and police. The Punjab government is notorious in appeasing the banned Muslim militant organisations. The Punjab provincial government, during the bye elections in 2009 has released some extremist leaders from the jails, who were involved in sectarian violence and killings, which helped them to win the elections. The younger brother of the Chief Minister of Punjab is also associated with one of the banned militant Muslim groups and is involved in spreading communal and sectarian violence.

It is very sad that after the killing of the two brothers some groups have attacked the Daud Nagar of Warispura, Faisalabad where there is 100,000 strong Christian communities. Different groups carried out processions inside the Christian area until the late hours of the night and threatened the residents. They warned them that they will face the same fate as happened in Gojra last year where nine people were killed and six were burned to death.

The other factor which suppresses the freedom of religious minority groups in Pakistan is the illegal use of loudspeakers from the mosques against the religious minorities as the easiest tool to instigate the Muslim population. The government is not taking any action against the misuse of loudspeakers. According to the law it is illegal for the loudspeakers in mosques to be used for anything other than Friday sermons in Arabic and the call to prayer.

Religious minority groups in Pakistan remain vulnerable due to the continued use and abuse of blasphemy charges, despite section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code. This must be strongly implemented if minorities are to be protected. Police who fail to follow the code and who operate under the directives of extremists in the community must face strong legal action. Charges of blasphemy are still met with the death penalty in Pakistan, and desecrating the Quran carries a life sentence.

The AHRC urges the government to appoint a judicial commission to probe the incident of killing of the two Christian brothers and the attacks on the Christian community, the high police officials must be prosecuted for their negligence in providing security to the Christians when it was very obvious that the extremists would attack them.

The government should immediately abolish the Blasphemy law which was introduced by a fundamentalist military dictator in the 1980s for the purpose of prosecuting religious minorities. The government should also follow the amendment made in the Blasphemy law that no FIR for Blasphemy can be filed without an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police. Therefore the government should take action against the responsible police officers who, without proper investigations, filed the FIR for Blasphemy at the pressure from some Muslim extremist groups.

The government should also provide compensation to the family of the assassinated brothers.

Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367
twitter/youtube/facebook: humanrightsasia

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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Urgent Appeal: Support Pakistan’s Christian community in Punjab

Update July 19, 2010

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-102-2010
14 July 2010

PAKISTAN: The Christian community in Punjab is under threat from extremist groups again; two brothers are illegally charged with blasphemy

ISSUE: Religious minorities, blasphemy law, threats, arbitrary detention

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that two Christian men are in imminent danger after they were arrested, without a legitimate investigation, for blasphemy. The police officers involved have not followed the penal code, which only allows such charges to be made after an investigation by the superintendent of police. Blasphemy can still be met with the death penalty in Pakistan.

Violent rallies by radical Muslims in the area have called for the men’s deaths, and Christians have reportedly begun to leave the neighbourhood. They fear that a new attack is planned for the end of the month, around the anniversary of a deadly attack on Christians 50km away in Korian village, Tehsil Gojra; six were set alight and burned to death. Mosque loudspeakers are also being freely used to incite the violence, which is illegal.

Immediate action must be taken to remove the men from danger, take up their case according to the laws and procedures of the country, and quell the rising tide of violence against the Christian community.

CASE NARRATIVE
Mr. Rashid Emmanuel, 32, is a pastor. On the evening of 2 July he received a telephone call from a man who claimed to be from the La Salle School, a prominent Christian educational centre. He asked to meet Mr. Rashid about an urgent matter at Zilla Council chowk (crossroads) in Faisalabad. When Rashid arrived later that evening he saw four persons standing in the dark; before ten uniformed police officers reportedly emerged and arrested him.

He was taken to the Civil Lines Police Station nearby and shown a photocopy of a four-page handwritten pamphlet that criticized Islam and its last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him). The pamphlet appeared to be signed by Rashid and his younger brother Sajid Emmanuel, and instructed the reader to contact them for further information. It featured their cell phone numbers and national identity card numbers.

The police detained Rashid and released a boy who they had mistakenly thought to be Rashid’s brother. The blasphemy complaint was filed by Mr. Mohammad Khurram Shehzad, a printer who reportedly declared that his assistant had seen a man distributing the pamphlets at Lari Adda, the city’s main bus terminus, on 1 July. Based on this information the police filed a First Information Report (FIR), a legal document for case proceeding in the court).

However the blasphemy law was amended in 2004 specifically to avoid its abuse via baseless charges. As details below the blasphemy charge can still be met with the death penalty, yet it often arises amid neighbourhood vendettas. Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPP) now states that no case of blasphemy can be filed without the investigation of the superintendent of police.

A representative of the Christian community – Mr. Atif Jamil Pagan, the Chief of Pakistan Minorities Democratic Harmony Foundation – contacted the police and was told by the SHO that a sub inspector and an assistant superintendent had been chosen for the investigation; he allegedly acknowledged that they were not complying with section 295C of the PPC because they were under pressure from extremist Muslim groups in the community. The sub inspector, a Mr. Mohammad Hessian, later told Atif that the accused was being detained without evidence against him because the case was a sensitive one.

On 3 July we are told that the police took Rashid to the Anti Terrorist Court (ATC) for police remand, where the case was correctly refused. Religious matters are no longer under the authority of the ATC, as maintained in clause 780 of the Anti Terrorist Act (ATA) 1997. Rashid was taken to a duty magistrate in the Civil Lines jurisdiction, who agreed to his two-day remand in police custody, despite the breach of procedure.

We are told that during this time the sub inspector summoned Atif Pagan to the police station and asked that he produce Rashid’s young brother. For his protection, Pagan arranged for Sajid to be handed to the police in the presence of Bishop Joseph Couetts of Faisalabad. The police then asked the brothers to handwrite each pamphlets three times. On 7 July the writing samples were sent to experts in Lahore, around 200km from Faisalabad, but the experts reportedly replied that they could not work from the photocopied pamphlets.

During this time groups of organized Muslim activists started to rally against the brothers in public: we are told that the loudspeakers from a number of mosques were used illegally to do so, and to incite violence against local Christians (in breach, as noted below, of Section 3 of the Loud Speaker Act 1965). On 7 July a procession in Warispura saw local Muslim residents chanting threatening slogans against Christians; one chant called for the hanging of Rashid and Sajid, and we are informed that the mob attacked a Catholic Church, breaking its windows and doors. On 10 July persons in another procession burnt tires on the streets; a call went up declaring that Christians would not be allowed to live in Warispura. At 1am that night a procession of motorbikes took place, with riders allegedly harassing Christians who were leaving their homes with their belongings. The protestors announced that a meeting would be held at Ghanta Chowk on 11 July, a central gathering place for su ch rallies.

We are told that the police began efforts to address the protestors on the evening of 10 July, and that after a number of meetings it was agreed that the rallies and threats should stop.

However protest gatherings continued on 11 July, and united into a large meeting at noon, at which Muslim leaders from various religious political parties, among them Khatme-e-Nabowat, Jamiat Ulema-ePakistan and Namoos-e-Risalat reportedly reiterated death threats against the brothers, because the government had not sentenced them to death. We are told that among the speakers were Sahibzada Abulkhair Mahumed Zubair and Syed Hidayat Hussain Shah, who are known for inciting violence in the area. At the meeting it was announced that a set of gallows had been set up at the tower of Ghanta Ghar (in the centre of Faisalabad), in preparation for the hanging of blasphemous Christians.

We are told that the brothers remain in detention at the police station without adequate protection against mob violence. There are strong fears that they could be attacked. The men have reported that co-detainees are also threatening them. Immediate action must be taken to remove them from danger, provide strong state protection, take up their case according to the laws and procedures of the country, and quell the rising tide of violence against the Christian community.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Almost a year ago six Christians, two of them women, were set alight and burned to death under similar circumstances just 50km away in Korian village, Tehsil Gojra, as reported in urgent appeal: A human rights activist faces terrorism charges for publicising the murder of Christians, while the mullahs who encouraged the violence remain free and mentioned again in: Newspaper advertisements call for the murder of a human rights lawyer in Punjab; police silently spectate. Houses were also set on fire. The Christian community in Wasapura is extremely concerned that a similar attack could be planned around the anniversary of the Gojra violence, on 31 July. With such incidents already proven to be possible, it is imperative that these concerns are acted on, and the greatest efforts are taken by the administration to protect these Pakistanis from potent ial attack, and reassure them of their security and their rights.

Religious minority groups in Pakistan remain vulnerable due to the continued use and abuse of blasphemy charges, despite section 295C of the PPC. This must be strongly implemented if minorities are to be protected. Police who fail to follow the code and who operate under the directive of extremists in the community must face strong legal action. Charges of blasphemy are still met with the death penalty in Pakistan, and desecrating the Quran carries a life sentence.

The AHRC is also aware of several recent cases in which mosques have used loud speakers to provoke anger against religious minorities. Section 3 of Loud Speaker Act 1965 bans all types of speeches other than Azan (the call to prayer) and the Friday sermon in Arabic. Charges must be taken against those who allow the mosques to be used illegally to incite violence.

SUGGESTED ACTION
Please write letters to the authorities to remind them of their immediate responsibility to protect a threatened population of Christians in Faisalabad, Punjab province, and to urge immediate legal action against those inciting violence against them.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has written to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Independent Expert on minority issues

To support this appeal please click here
http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/support.php?ua=UAC-102-2010

SAMPLE LETTER
Dear __________,
PAKISTAN: The Christian community in Punjab is under threat from extremist groups again; two brothers are illegally charged with blasphemy
Names of victims:
1. Mr. Rashid Emmanuel, son of Emmanuel
2. Mr. Sajid Emmanuel, son of Emmanuel
Both residents of house number T230, Galli number 5, Daud Nagar, Warispura, Faisalabad, Punjab
Names of those allegedly inciting religious violence:
1. Mr. Muhammad Khuram Shahzad, printer, Faisalabad, Punjab
2. Mr. Sahibzada Abulkhair Muhammad Zubair, Leader of Jamiat Ulema-ePakistan, Faisalabad, Punjab province
3. Mr. Syed Hidayat Huassain Shah, leader of Khatm-e-Nabowat, Faisalabad, Punjab province
4. Mr. Mufti Abdul Shakoor Rizvi, former member of Punjab assembly, Faisalabad, Punjab province
5. Mr. Mushtaq Ansari, Councilor of Union Council Warispura, Faisalabad, Punjab province
Date of incident: July 2, 2010
Place of incident: Warispura, Samandri, Faisalabad, Punjab province.

I am writing to voice my deep concern for the safety of two Christian men and their minority community, after they were arrested for blasphemy without a legitimate reason. I am told that the police officers involved have not followed the penal code, which only allows such charges to be made after an investigation by the superintendent of police, and that public rallies from radical Muslims in the area have called for the deaths of the men, and other Christians in the neighbourhood.

On the evening of 2 July Mr. Rashid Emmanuel received a telephone call from a man who claimed to be from a prominent Christian educational centre. He asked to meet Mr. Rashid about an urgent matter at Zilla Council chowk (crossroads) in Faisalabad. When Mr. Rashid arrived later that evening he reports that ten uniformed police officers emerged and arrested him. He was taken to the Civil Lines Police Station nearby and shown a photocopy of a four-page handwritten pamphlet that criticized Islam and its last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him). The pamphlet appeared to be signed by Mr. Rashid and his younger brother Sajid Emmanuel, and instructed the reader to contact them for further information. It featured their cell phone numbers and national identity card numbers.

I am told that the police detained Mr. Rashid and released a boy who they had mistakenly thought to be Mr. Rashid’s brother. The blasphemy complaint was filed by Mr. Mohammad Khurram Shehzad, a printer who reportedly declared that his assistant had seen a man distributing the pamphlets at Lari Adda, the city’s main bus terminus, on 1 July. Based on this information the police filed a First Information Report (FIR), a legal document for case proceeding in the court). However as you must be aware, the blasphemy law was amended in 2004 specifically to avoid its abuse via baseless charges.

Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPP) now states that no case of blasphemy can be filed without the investigation of the superintendent of police.

A representative of the Christian community – Mr. Atif Jamil Pagan, the Chief of Pakistan Minorities Democratic Harmony Foundation – contacted the police and was told by station head officer (SHO) Aamir that a sub inspector and an assistant superintendent had been chosen for investigation; he apparently acknowledged that they were not complying with section 295C of the PPC because they were under pressure from extremist Muslim groups in the community.

On 3 July I am told that the police took Mr. Rashid to the Anti Terrorist Court (ATC) for police remand, where the case was correctly refused, and Mr. Rashid was taken to a duty magistrate in the Civil Lines jurisdiction, who agreed to his two-day remand in police custody.

In the mean time Mr. Sajid was handed to the police in the presence of Bishop Joseph Couetts of Faisalabad. The police have sent copies of their handwriting to experts in Lahore, but I understand that the experts reportedly replied that they could not work with the photocopy of the pamphlet.

I am concerned that during this time groups of organized Muslim activists were able to rally against the brothers in public, while inciting violence against Christians, and that loudspeakers from a number of mosques were used illegally to do so (this is illegal under Section 3 of the Loud Speaker Act 1965). On 7 July a procession in Warispura saw local Muslim residents chanting threatening slogans against Christians; one chant called for the hanging of Mr. Rashid and Sajid, and a mob attacked a Catholic Church, breaking its windows and doors.

On 10 July persons in another procession burnt tires on the streets; the threats escalated and a call went up declaring that Christians would not be allowed to live in Warispura. At 1am that night a procession of motorbikes took place, with riders allegedly harassing Christians who were leaving their homes with their belongings. The protestors announced that a meeting would be held at Ghanta Chowk on 11 July, a central gathering place for such rallies.

I understand that the police began efforts to address the protestors on the evening of 10 July, and after a number of meetings were held, it was agreed that the rallies and threats should stop.
However various public gatherings formed on 11 July, and a public meeting took place at noon, in which Muslim leaders from various religious political parties, among them Khatme-e-Nabowat, Jamiat Ulema-ePakistan and Namoos-e-Risalat reiterated death threats against the brothers due to the failure of the government to sentence them. Among the speakers were Sahibzada Abulkhair Mahumed Zubair and Syed Hidayat Hussain Shah, who are known for inciting violence in the area. At the meeting it was announced that a set of gallows had been set up at the tower of Ghanta Ghar (in the centre of Faisalabad), in preparation for the hanging of blasphemous Christians.

I am told that both men remain in detention at the police station, without adequate protection against mob violence. There are strong fears that the men could be attacked at any time. The men have reported that co-detainees are also threatening them. Immediate action must be taken to remove the men from danger, take up their case according to the laws and procedures of the country, and quell the rising tide of violence against the Christian community, members of which have begun to leave the neighbourhood.

Please note that there are real concerns about the possibility of violence due to the upcoming anniversary of a violent incident, in which police failed to act in time to protect the community, and have not sufficiently investigated since. On July 31 six Christians, two of them women, were set alight and burned to death under similar circumstances, just 50km away in Korian village, Tehsil Gojra. Houses were also set on fire. It is imperative that these concerns are acted on, and the greatest efforts are taken by the administration to protect these citizens from potential attack, and reassure them of their security and their rights.

As a final note, I would like to urge that stronger efforts go into the implementation of section 295C of the PPC. Police who fail to follow the code and who operate under the directive of extremists in the community must face strong legal action; as must those who break the law by allowing the loud speakers of mosques to be used to provoke anger against religious minorities.

Yours sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO
1. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President of Pakistan
President’s Secretariat
Islamabad, PAKISTAN,
Email: publicmail@president.gov.pk
Phone 92-51-9204801-9214171
Fax 92-51-9207458

2. Mr.Syed Mumtaz Alam Gillani
Federal Minister for Human Rights
Ministry of Human Rights
Old US Aid building
Ata Turk Avenue
G-5, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +9251-9204108
Email: sarfraz_yousuf@yahoo.com

3. Mr. Salman Taseer
Governor of Punjab
Governor House
Mall Road
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 99203044
Email: governor.sectt@punjab.gov.pk

4. Chief Secretary of Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 7324489
E-mail: chiefsecy@punjab.gov.pk

5. Minister of Law
Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Ravi Road
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92-42-99212004
E-mail: law@punjab.gov.pk

6. Dr. Faqir Hussain
Registrar
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Constitution Avenue, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 9213452
E-mail: mail@supremecourt.gov.pk

7. Mr. Tariq Saleem
Inspector-General of Police, Punjab
Police Head Office, Lahore, Punjab province
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92-42-99210064

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission
ua@ahrc.asia

Also view Pakistani Christians face Blasphemy Laws again

Update July 19, 2010
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UPDATE: Algeria: Samia Smets acquitted

Update on: Algeria: Woman sentenced to 10 years for allegedly damaging a Quran

30/10/2008: Samia S., accused of having damaged a Quran and sentenced last September to 10 years imprisonment, was acquitted on 28 October 2008 by the judge of the criminal division of the Court of Biskra.

This 30 year old woman was detained in a prison in Biskra, southern Algeria, for a civil case; she had inadvertently dropped a copy of the Quran in a water container during an argument with her fellow prisoners. She has been sentenced without any legal assistance by the Court of first instance of Biskra on the basis of her fellow prisoners’ testimonies saying they had seen her tearing up the Holy Book.

During the appeal trial held last week, the lawyer Talha Houda defended her client basing her defence on the inadmissibility of the testimonies/evidences and the absence of the corpus delicti. After one week, this verdict has widely satisfied the accused and her lawyer. The latter declared: “The tribunal has restored the image of Biskra and the whole of Algeria, in proclaiming this acquittal.”

This also demonstrates that the Criminal court is a court of evidences and not of conviction since no tangible evidence has been presented by the accusers, who are the fellow prisoners and their testimonies were misleading. I thank the judges who have considered the mitigating circumstances for my warrant.

Source: El Watan

Translated by: Chiara Maurilio

wluml.org