By BosNewsLife News Center
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- A Pakistani Christian who spent over two years in jail for allegedly degrading Islam has died and there were fears he may have been tortured, fellow Christians said Monday, October 30.
Bashir Masih from Bahawalnagar was detained August 3, 2004, on charges of blasphemy as he apparently touched the Koran despite being a Christian, local sources said. Muslims regard the Koran as their 'holy book.'
Masih was a Christian believer who worked as a sweeper and made amulets for both Christians and Muslims. It appeared that in the cause of his work he touched the Koran, something that eventually led to his arrest.
His family and relatives never visited him because of fear. The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an influential organization working for Christians being persecuted for their faith in Pakistan, said it remained suspicious about the circumstances surrounding
CLAAS told BosNewsLife it learned that the "Bashir family was informed about Masih's death on October 1" and that they soon realized he "had not have a heart attackÂ» as prison officials suggested. He was "brutally murdered" as his "right temple was severely wounded and blood had come down to his beard and had soaked his clothes," CLAAS said, quoting family members.
Masih was not the only Christian suffering under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, CLAAS and other groups say. CLAAS said that this month two other Christians, identified as James Masih and Boota Masih, were arrested "for burning Koranic paper."
James Masih and Boota Masih are residents of Nishatabad an impoverished small town, two hours drive from the city of Lahore. The problems apparently began after James Masihâ€™s daughters, who work as house servants, were cleaning the house of their Muslim employer.
"Their Muslim employer gave them some newspapers and other waste papers to take home and burn...When they were burning the waste papers, the neighbors came and saw that there were some papers from what they see as 'the holy Koran'," CLAAS explained.
"Immediately, they extinguished the fire and called local police who arrested James Masih and his friend Boota Masih," the group said, adding that in the region "many of the Christians have already fled their homes," amid fears pf revenge attacks.
In addition Shahid Masih, 17, remained in prison Monday, October 30, after he was arrested last month, September 21. He is jailed on charges "of ripping the pages of a book containing Koranic verses," CLAAS said in a statement.
His lawyer has reportedly appealed to the Punjabi police for his case to be cancelled for lack of evidence. If Shahid will serve a life sentence.
He allegedly tore pages from a Koranâ€™s Commentary while stealing books from a medical clinic in the Madina Town district of Faisalabad last week. The charges are based on the testimony of his Muslim colleague Muhammad Ghaffar, who is 19.
The three cases have underscored concerns over blasphemy laws in Pakistan, at a time when the predominantly Muslim nation is participating in the US-led war against terrorism. (With reports from Pakistan).
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