Jawad Mazhar, Worthy News Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
LAHORE, PUNJAB (Worthy News)-- A Pakistani court has fined police for "illegally" detaining and "torturing" a Christian young man in a case that rights activists hope will encourage "persecuted" Christian families to continue seeking justice and prosecute abusers.
A Sessions Court in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province, condemned police for the 25-days detention and mistreatment of Waqas Masih, said his cousin Nazir Masih, who is also a provincial legislator.
"They tied him and tortured him barbarically" at a local Lahore police station where he was held "without charges", Nazir Masih told Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife.
It was unclear what prompted the arrest, but police officials in Punjab province have been pressured by Muslim militants and hardliners to detain devoted Christians who openly express their faith and refuse to embrace Islam, according to rights activists.
The fine of 30,000 Pakistani Rupees ($36) officer Talib Hussain received was seen as a first step towards justice for other Christian families in Punjab province facing tensions with police.
It was also expected to impact the case of an impoverished Christian father, Piyara Masih, who seeks justice for an attack by five Muslims. They allegedly ransacked his home in Lahore, and beat his daughters, to get his family withdraw rape charges.
The Muslims reportedly also ripped off clothes of his two daughters, a 15-year-old and her 21-year-old sister, Muniran Bibi during the attack on February 26.
Masih accuses the men of raping his then-13-year-old daughter in 2008, apparently because they believed courts would not prosecute Muslims attacking a Christian.
Amid pressure from politicians, police registered a case against the Muslim gang, but Masih reportedly said his family was still receiving death threats.
The justice system in Punjab province and other areas of Pakistan is biased against non-Muslims and easily swayed by threats, bribes or other means of persuasion from Muslims, according to Christian leaders.
Such pressure even impact disputes over Christian funerals and Christian homes.
In one of the latest known cases, a Muslim land owner seized a Christian graveyard and refused to allow the burial of a young Christian in the city of Gujranwala last Sunday, March 25, Christians said.
Police even was even seen beating mourners, and only allowed the burial of 25-year-old Riaz Masih the next day following protests, according to witnesses.
The situation isn't much better in conflicts over real estate, said Christian provincial legislator Tahir Naveed Chaudhary.
He said the Pakistan Railways, apparently backed by local authorities, sealed the home of a Christian former employee living with his family in a railway compound in Punjab province, while Muslim pensioners faced no similar measures.
There was concern Saturday, April 3, that the Christian, Younas Anthony and his family would become homeless. "It seems that I am a soft target unable to resist officials," Anthony said.
However with news that Lahore judges at least in some cases rule in favor of Christian families, trial observers appeared cautiously optimistic that at least some Christians will receive justice in this heavily Islamic nation.