Pakistan Releases Elderly Christian On Bail In Blasphemy Trial

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | Tag Cloud

By BosNewsLife News Center

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- An 84-year-old Pakistani Christian who faced the death penalty on charges of blasphemy was released on bail Tuesday, May 29, and rushed to a secret location, officials defending him told BosNewsLife.

"Walter Fazal Khan was granted bail from the session court [in the town of Lahore] this morning," said Nasir Saeed, co-ordinator of the advocacy group Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), which is involved in the case.

It was not immediately clear how much money was paid. The widely anticipated court hearing was at the last moment rescheduled from Saturday, May 26, to Tuesday, May 29, "due to a strike" in Lahore, he added in a statement to BosNewsLife.

Following his release Khan was immediately shifted "to a safe place," said Saeed, without providing details for security reasons. The date of a possible next court hearing was not immediately announced.

WIFE MOVED

Khan's wife, Gladys Khan, who was forcibly converted to Islam by militants was handed over by CLAAS workers to her son Najam, the official added.

It was unknown when, and if, the Khans were able to meet later Tuesday, May 29, as both have reportedly been on the run for Muslim extremists.

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.

POLICE WARNING

"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 Saeed earlier.

This was not an isolated incident. Since January at least five Christians are known to have been arrested under the controversial blasphemy laws of Pakistan.

There has been growing pressure on Pakistan's government to change the blasphemy laws, which rights groups claim have been misused to settle disputes between different communities. (With reporting from Pakistan and BosNewsLife Research).

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