Pastor exonerated from blasphemy charges after judge rules that evidence is not valid
14 Dec 2017
London: December 14, 2017. (PCP) A pastor who was stitched up by land-grabbing Muslims in his home town of Kamahan in Lahore has been set free by Judge Malik Shah at Lahore High Court on 6th December 2017.
During the proceedings Judge Malik ridiculed the evidence shown by the prosecution against the obviously innocent Christian man.
Judge Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan's verdict reads: "The accused allegedly made an extrajudicial confession … in police custody, therefore, this is not admissible as evidence in court. The Polygraphic test is a weak type of evidence and this cannot be relied upon blindly.”Justice Khan added, "No page of the Sipara (chapter) allegedly recovered from the possession of the petitioner was found to be torn. Mere recovery of a blue marker from the possession of the petitioner is by itself not sufficient to refuse bail to the petitioner because a blue marker is available in almost every second house of big cities of this country."
Rev Babu Shahbaz (42 yrs) was arrested on 30th December 2016, after a group of local Muslims found 150 torn pages of the Koran strewn in the street. His accusers then alleged that Pastor Babu Shahbaz's name was printed on 100's of the pages despite Pastor Shahbaz being illiterate. Read full story (click here)
Rev Shahbaz was jailed in Lahore Prison and was charged under section 295-B of Pakistan's penal code for the crime of defiling the Koran, which is a non-bailable offence which carrys the sentence of life imprisonment.
295-B. Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur'an : Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur'an or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life. Sec. 295-B added by P.P.C. (Amendment) Ordinance, I of 1982.
Though Rev Shahbaz has been exonerated the lopsided justice system still required him to pay a fine of 200,000 rupees (£1370) to be set free and allowed to return home.
Attorney Nadeem Anthony who defended Rev Shahbaz, said: "minor courts are influenced by group pressure. I made no promises to the victim's family, I only asked that their requests be heard. Similar cases require difficult work because of religious sensitivity on the issue. Often victims can not return to lead a normal life in their environment, because society ostracizes them ".
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "The fact that such whimsical evidence could be used to convict a man in the lower courts, resulting in his imprisonment for a year is simply diabolical.
"Rev Shahbaz is very fortunate that in his case the Lahore High Court heard his case so soon, most blasphemy victims have had to wait for four years. The rapidity of his appeal means that this dishevelled and broken man will have the opportunity to convalesce with his loving, caring and faithful family over Christmas.
"However even during this cathartic moment when he was exonerated, the pernicious judicial system of Pakistan is found to be with fault, as they declare a price for an innocent mans freedom at 200,000 rupees. Such avarice from the courts displays an undeniable truth Christians have to pay for justice and their freedom."