Friday, October 26, 2018

Pakistan: Mentally disabled Christian sentenced to life in prison for blasphemy against Islam

"Mentally Disabled Pakistani Christian Sentenced to Life in Prison," International Christian Concern, October 24, 2018:
10/24/2018 Washington DC (International Christian Concern) – On September 28, Yaqoob Bashir, a 25-year-old mentally disabled Pakistani Christian, was sentenced to life in prison by the Session and District Court of Mirpurkhas for allegedly committing blasphemy against Islam. This life sentence was issued over 3 years after the initial blasphemy accusation was leveled against Bashir in 2015.
Bashir was first accused of burning a booklet that carried Quranic verses in Mirpurkhas in June 2015. The case was registered (FIR # 41/15) against Bashir, under Section 295-B and C of Pakistan’s Penal Code on June 5, 2015. Bashir was reportedly receiving treatment at a mental health facility in Hyderabad prior to the blasphemy accusation.
Last month, the court sentenced Bashir under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code, which punishes individuals for using derogatory language against the prophet Muhammad. However, he was found innocent under Section 295-B, that punishes individuals for desecrating the Quran.
Collectively, Sections 295 A, B and C comprise Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. Many human rights advocates who monitor Pakistan have reported on the widespread abuse of these blasphemy laws. Often, false accusations are made to settle personal scores or incite religious hatred against minority communities. Mob violence and lynchings often follow blasphemy accusations against Christians, even if those accusations are clearly false.
During Bashir’s 3 years and 3 months of imprisonment prior to his conviction, approximately 96 hearings were conducted as a part of his trial. During this period, Bashir was attacked by fellow inmates on several occasions. In June 2018, he was brutally beaten by fellow inmates for praying in their shared jail cell and sustained multiple injuries.
The young Christian also found little sympathy from the courts as his appeals for bail were twice rejected, once by the Session Court and then again by the High Court of Hyderabad. While awaiting trial, Bashir suffered from multiple serious illnesses due to the poor conditions in jail and the lack of adequate medical care from jail authorities.
Since the day Bashir was accused of blasphemy, his family's been continuously monitored by extremist groups. These groups have repeatedly threatened and harassed them during court hearings.
"It’s unbearable and unjust," Kasur Bibi, Bashir’s mother, told International Christian Concern (ICC). "My son's innocent. He didn't insult or do blasphemy. He doesn't care much of these issues as his mind works differently than that of a normal person’s."

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