Pakistani court acquits Christian man sentenced to life in prison for blasphemy
The Lahore High Court has acquitted Imran Ghafur Masih; a Christian sentenced to life in prison under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. According to Imran’s family, they have moved into hiding following the acquittal due to potential threats from extremists.
On the 15th of December, the Lahore High Court acquitted Imran after he spent more than ten years in prison for allegedly committing blasphemy.
On the 1st of July, 2009, Imran was cleaning his family’s bookshop in Hajweri town, located in Faisalabad. He was about to burn some trash he collected, which included some old books and papers when he came across a textbook with Arabic writing. Concerned that the book contained religious writings, Imran consulted Hajji Liaquat Ali, his Muslim neighbour.
Ali told Imran to burn the book, so Imran threw it into the fire and walked away. When the book was partially burned, Ali returned and pulled it out of the fire. Ali used this partially burned book to falsely accuse Imran of burning a Quran. According to Imran’s family, Ali wanted the storefront leased to the family’s bookshop to expand his building materials business located next door.
News of the incident soon spread to local mosques which made announcements over their PA systems. A mob of approximately four hundred people enraged Muslims gathered at Imran’s home. The mob beat Imran, along with his brother, Naveed, and father, Ghafur, before dousing the Christians with paraffin in an attempt to burn them alive.
Local police intervened, arrested Imran, and took him to the police station. A mob of 1,000 reportedly gathered outside of the police station and demanded Imran be handed over to them. The mob chanted, “Hang him who disgraces the Holy Quran… Christians are dogs. Imran is a dog.” Police soon registered a blasphemy case against Imran and copies of the charges were distributed to the mob.
On the 11th of January 2010, the Sessions Court of Faisalabad sentenced Imran to life in prison under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Imran’s case was appealed to the Lahore High Court but was postponed nearly seventy times over the course of the following ten years.