A mentally retarded Pak-Christian man, from Sialkot who was unjustly accused of blasphemy has been released after 3 years in prison.
Stephen and his family have now been put under the protection of the Government of Pakistan and they will soon be flown to a country in the west for safety.
Read our early article (here)
Stephen Masih (44 yrs), who has been diagnosed as bi-polar, was involved in in an argument with his mother , sister, brother-in-law, and a few neighbors regarding a pigeon on his roof on 10th March 2019.
During the dispute, Stephen became very agitated and engaged in some abusive language towards a Muslim neighbor who was the wife of an Imam (Islamic religious cleric).
Later in the day a local Muslim woman who was friends with the Imam’s wife threatened to file a complaint with Pasrur police to have Stephen charged. Even later, Hafiz Muhammad Mudassar the woman’s husband visited Stephen’s home and physically attacked him. At the same time he accused Stephen of uttering a blasphemy. before leaving he threatened to bring a mob the following day to lynch Stephen.
The next day (11th March 2029) Mr Mudasser returned with an angry mob who surrounded Stephen’s home and they brutally began beating Stephen and members of his family. Stephen was crippled in the attack and his family home was burnt down. A sister of Stephen called the police for protection but they arrested Stephen and detained him under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
|295-C.||Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet:|
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
While another charity took on the cost of a solicitor for Stephen Masih, British Asian Christian Association, took care of his family by providing a safe house for them, budget for monthly needs and also covering the needs of Stephen while in prison. Watch video below:
Read more (here)
At a court hearing on 3rd June 2019, Pasrur Session Court, Stephen was officially charged with blasphemy. He was transferred to police custody and has remained there after appeals were ignored or postponed.
On 5th August 2021, Pasrur District Court rejected previous application for release on bail. Judge Sheikh determined that his life was “seriously threatened” in public and that the risk of flight could not be ruled out. The trial was postponed until Stephen “regained his mental health”. Judge Sheikh, said:
“If the accused is a lunatic or a mentally unfit person incapacitated to stand trial; surely, he should not be able to engage any counsel to make an application for bail?”
It should be noted that the Punjab Institute of Mental Health had determined before the trial that Stephen suffers from bipolar disorder and is therefore unfit to stand trial.
CHAPTER XXXIV of the Pakistan Criminal Code (Sections 464 – 475) suggests a person who is mentally retarded should not be put through trial. Read more (here)
On 21 October 2021, a group of United Nations experts published a statement calling on the government of Pakistan to release Stephen Masih:
“We are seriously concerned by the persecution and ongoing detention of Mr. Masih on blasphemy grounds, and by his treatment at the hands of the judicial and prison authorities who are aware of his psychological disability and health condition. We call on the authorities to urgently review Mr. Masih’s case, and to release and drop all charges against him, and to ensure protection for him and his family. […] We urge the Government of Pakistan to comply with its international human rights obligations, including with regard to freedom of expression, religion or belief, as well as with regard to the rights of persons who belong to minorities, to repeal all its anti-blasphemy and anti-apostasy legislation and to take measures to combat advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination and violence.”
The UN experts included:
- Mr. Ahmed Shaheed – Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
- Ms. Irene Khan -Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, M
- Mr. Fernand de Varennes – Special Rapporteur on minority issues
- Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng – Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health
On 6th June 2022 Stephen Masih was granted bail by Pasrur Court. Stephen and his family have since been reunited and are staying in a safe house provided by Pakistani authorities.
British Asian Christian Association, are buoyed by news of Stephen Maish’s release. Juliet Chowdhry, a Trustee, said:
“We are ecstatic over the news of Stephen Masih’s release on bail.
“Though it is not an outright acquittal it is a very strong step in the right direction.
“This case like many others was a very clear attempt to use a warped legal system to enact revenge for a petty squabble.
“That a Muslim man has been able to beat a mentally impaired Christian and then accuse him of blasphemy, resulting in three years imprisonment is deplorable.
“I can think of no worse indictment for Pakistan which has reached it’s lowest ebb for human rights.”
British Asian Christian Association, continues to support many Blasphemy victims and have recently taken over the legal case for Zafar Bhatti, Pakistan’s longest serving blasphemy victim (click here). We need your help to support Zafar and victims like him through the depravations of a very unjust law (click here). If you would like to help us with our work you can donate (here).