Pakistan: joy as blasphemy case Christian Younis Masih is released on appeal
Pakistan Christian Younis Masih, who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy, has been released on appeal ...
Pakistan Christian Younis Masih, who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy, has been released on appeal. The father-of-four had been in jail since November 2005. He was set free after a successful appeal to the High Court in Lahore yesterday (3 April).
The decision is welcomed by Release International, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide. Release has been working with partners in Pakistan for Younis’ release and hopes the move will set a precedent that will lead to the acquittal of others charged with blasphemy.
Release chief executive Paul Robinson said: "Today we are celebrating with Younis, his family and our partners who have supported them for all these years. We hope this sets a precedent for other victims of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws who should now be released. We were encouraged by the judges’ decision to throw out a case against Rimsha Masih (no relation) last year following an international outcry.
"Release commends the bravery of High Court judges in Lahore today who released Younis, despite intense pressure from Muslim hardliners who filled earlier court hearings, apparently trying to intimidate the judges."
Younis Masih was accused of blasphemy against Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, after complaining about noise levels at an Islamic religious ceremony which took place in his neighbourhood in Punjab at midnight.
The following day, a mob beat Younis Masih and set upon his wife, Meena, when she came to help him. Some 400 protestors, armed with sticks and bricks, then attacked and ransacked Christian houses, breaking down doors and stoning local churches, throwing Bibles on to the floor. More than 100 Christian families had to flee to save their lives.
Younis was sentenced to death for blasphemy in May 2007. He suffered a serious heart attack in custody in January this year.
Release partners are now making arrangements for the safe transfer of Younis from jail to an unspecified location.
Release partners, who cannot be named, add: "God has seen the suffering of Younis Masih in the prison; He has looked upon the sorrows of his wife and children and heard our continuing prayers."
Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.