London: (By Hannah Chowdhry) Nabeel Masih was only 16 when he was arrested in 2016 and imprisoned for an alleged blasphemy.
After three years in prison and many failed appeals while under the care of other Christian charities, Nabeel chose to seek help from British Asian Christian Association (click here).
BACA were able secure bail for Nabeel within a year allowing him freedom from his 4 year incarceration.
Since then BACA have been fighting for his acquittal and were shocked when the courts refused his absence from proceedings despite the risk to his life (click here) In tandem we are seeking help from western nations with the hope of providing asylum for Nabeel in a country that is safe.
We bring you up to date since our last report (click here for last report)
On 18th December when BACA team arrived Pattoki Town court, we were met with sheer disappointment after discovering that Judge Farida Ijaz had been replaced by a new judge Sajid Mehmood Sajid.
Apparently, the hearing could not proceed as the complainant counsel was excused for forgetting to bring case documents from his car.
The judge then refused to proceed until the decision of a writ petition No.4492/20 filed in Sessions Court Lahore against the director of the FIA seeking Nabeel to be convicted under the Cyber Crime Act 2016. Judge Sajid then fixed the next hearing for 19th December 2021.
The court room was crowded with supporters of the complainant who want Nabeel to be hanged. These men harass Nabeel and the BACA team throughout the hearings, staring and discussing loudly about the case as if trying to provoke others in the court to assault Nabeel and our team. The judge seems to be ignoring their behaviour despite the obvious intimidation and court room disturbance. This is very different to how courts in the west operate for instance when the father of Ahmaud Aubery was removed from court when celebrating the convictions of three white men involved in the racially motivated murder of his son (click here).
The surprise change of another judge in this acquittal case is a poor indictment of Pakistan’s judicial system. Clearly no Town/District judge will do the right thing and acquit Nabeel Masih. This is down to inherent bias and prejudice amongst Pakistan’s elite, corruption with heavy bribes affecting the rule of law and fear of retribution for releasing pariah Christians. We wish some of these judges could be trained in how a courtroom should be controlled, it might even make a useful spend from the numerous foreign aid budgets that Pakistan recieves.
The further delay by the judge has caused us to rethink our strategy. We intimated in our last article (click here) that we would apply for a Quashment Writ against the original First Information Report (FIR) in High Court if Pattoki Town Court delayed any further and we are now enacting the process. Nabeel and our team are simply now too scared to attend a the Pattoki court where the number of haters increases at each hearing.
Advocate Naseeb Anjum, said:
“They [The court] are trying to prolong the case unnecessarily and want to hurt Nabeel.
“Such delay has no other meaning.
“The judge and others are very aware of the sensitivity of the case and danger to Nabeel”
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“The Pakistan court system is flawed and riven with prejudice and corruption.
“Needless judge changes without reason are an obvious delay tactic, which has allowed extremists to ramp up their threatening behaviour.
“Judge Farida Ijaz has already spoken with prejudice and we now have to undertake the expense of a High Court Writ to protect Nabeel Masih
“Nabeel is naturally terrified and we are doing all we can to obtain his acquittal.
“Not one western country has offered him asylum though his life will be under constant threat once exonerated.”
A frightened Nabeel Masih travels in a different vehicle every time he goes to court. He has a police entourage and enters court through a private entrance opened only for authorised persons. Even then he threat to his life remains severe.
BACA is calling on people of good conscience in countries in the west to contact their local MP’s, lords, congressman and senators and to ask them to contact BACA, with hope of initiating the process for establishing asylum rights for Nabeel Masih. Please copy us into any communications as you have been doing, together we can save his life.