March 2, 2021 5:25:41 pm
A Pakistani court has granted bail to a Christian man, who was arrested about five years ago on charges of sharing an alleged blasphemous content on a social media platform.
The Lahore High Court on Monday granted bail to Nabeel Masih, who was 16 years old when he was arrested in 2016 in Kasur city, some 50 kms from Lahore, on a complaint filed by one person of the same locality alleging that he has shared a blasphemous content on a WhatsApp group.
He was charged with the offences of injuring or defiling a place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class and deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
During the hearing, Masih’s lawyer told the court that his client had been languishing behind bars for about five years with no progress in the trial.
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“The forensic report proved that the alleged blasphemous post in a WhatsApp group had not been generated by Masih who was a juvenile at that time,” his lawyer said, adding that legal requirements for registration of the FIR on the blasphemy charges had also not been fulfilled by police.
“Police apparently registered the FIR against Masih on the pressure of clerics and people of Kasur city,” the lawyer said.
He said the complainant had been delaying the proceedings on one pretext or another, while the prosecution has also not presented the evidence so far in the case.
Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws and their prescribed punishments are considered extremely severe. People accused of blasphemy are usually deprived of the right to a counsel of their choice as most lawyers refuse to take up such sensitive cases.
The blasphemy laws are colonial-era legislation but they were amended by former dictator General Ziaul Haq which increased the severity of prescribed punishments.
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