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04/30/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – According to Morning Star News, a Christian accused of blasphemy in Pakistan was tortured into making a false confession while spending more than two months in police custody.

On February 13, Haroon Ayub Masih and Salamat Mansha Masih, two Christians, were studying the Bible in Model Town Park, located in Lahore. While studying, the two Christians met Haroon Ahmad, a Muslim, and several of Ahmad’s friends.

According to the First Information Report (FIR # 61/21), the two Christians gave Ahmad a Christian book entitled “Water of Life” and began to discuss the divinity of the prophets and Jesus Christ. This discussion with Ahmad turned into an argument that ended with Ahmad accusing the Christians of making derogatory remarks against Islam.

Police charged the two Christians with committing blasphemy under Sections 295-A, 295-B, and 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code. If found guilty, the two Christians could face execution as Section 295-C carries a mandatory death sentence.

Salamat was immediately arrested following the accusation and was taken into police custody. According to Morning Star News, he was illegally kept in custody for more than two months before being presented before a judge.

During this period, he was kept in at least three different police stations and illegal torture cells, where he was mentally and physically tortured to confess to the baseless accusations,” Aneeq Maria, Salamat’s attorney, told Morning Star News. “When we were finally able to talk to Salamat, he told us that he had suffered immense torture and verbal abuse during his illegal confinement. The police investigators forced him to admit to blasphemy. They also tortured him into naming other members of the Bible study circle.

Haroon, the other Christian accused of blasphemy on February 13, secured pre-arrest bail and has since fled Lahore. Police also questioned Salamat about Haroon’s whereabouts.

In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations are highly inflammatory and have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests.

Since Pakistan added Section 295-B and 295-C to the country’s blasphemy laws in 1987, the number of blasphemy accusations have skyrocketed. Between 1987 and 2017, 1,534 individuals in Pakistan have been accused of blasphemy. Out of that 1,534, 829 accusations (54%), were made against religious minorities. With Christians only making up 1.6% of Pakistan’s total population, the 238 accusations (15.5%) made against Christians is highly disproportionate.

For interviews, please contact Alison Garcia: [email protected].