Elderly Christian Faces Execution In Pakistan; Trial Underway

Monday, May 28, 2007 | Tag Cloud

By BosNewsLife News Center

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- The trial of an 84-year old Christian accused of blasphemy was to start Saturday, May 26, amid fears he could face the death penalty, the group defending him told BosNewsLife.

The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) said Friday, May, 25, it learned that Walter Fazal Khan’s "case is going to be heard in court," [tomorrow].

During the hearing Khan, a retired government executive, was expected to appeal against his arrest at Lahore's magistrates' court.

Three Lawyers, "Mr. Justin Gill, Mr. Durani and Miss Aneeqa Maria are appearing in court" and will try to get Khan released on bail, the group told BosNewsLife in a statement.

CLAAS asked supporters in an e-mail message to, "Please pray for these lawyers so that they can present the argument wisely and for the judge so that he can come to a decision without being under pressure."

HOUSE SEIZED

Khan was recently detained after his house was seized and turned into a 'Madrassah', a religious Muslim school. CLAAS said Khan has been charged and imprisoned on suspicion of burning the Quran and insulting the Prophet Mohammed, both crimes punishable by death in Pakistan.

CLAAS investigators said that leaders from the Jamil Mosque, next door to Khan’s property in the town of Lahore, have taken over his house and forced his wife Gladys to convert to Islam.

"The police have warned us not to go into the area so we are not sure what is happening inside the house but Mr Khan will never live there again," said CLAAS coordinator Nasir Saeed in published remarks.

Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws a man can face the death penalty if his insult to Islam amounts to apostasy, or turning away from Islam, a woman faces life imprisonment.

REJECTING BILL

Last week Pakistan’s government reportedly rejected a bill to amend the law saying the proposals were offensive to Islam.

The Times Online, the website edition of the UK newspaper, quoted Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, author of 'Islam, a Christian Perspective' as saying that Khan’s case was part of a recent “rash of cases” under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

"The laws are often used to settle land and property disputes,” said Nazir-Ali, who has worked in Lahore. Since January at least five Christians are known to have been arrested under the controversial blasphemy laws of Pakistan. (With sources in Pakistan).

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