Pakistan: acquittals in Christian home burnings

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court acquitted 112 individuals suspected of taking part in the 2013 burning of 150 Christian homes and two churches in Lahore's Josep Colony. Ghulam Murtaza Chaudhry, the lawyer defending the suspects, stated that the suspects were acquitted because of a lack of evidence. Chaudhry stated the testimony of the plaintiffs was inconsistent and they could not identify those accused. The suspects were being charged under Pakistan's blasphemy law, which outlaws blasphemy against any recognized religion and provides penalties that range from a fine to death. At the time the acquittal was handed down, all 112 suspects were out on bail.

Pakistan's National Commission for Justice and Peace reported that a total of 21 Hindus, 187 Christians, 494 Ahmadis, and 633 Muslims have been accused under the blasphemy law between 1987 and 2014. The law has led to outbursts of violence through out Pakistan's history. In 2014 Tashid Rahman, a defense lawyer and human rights activist, was shot and killed after defending Junaid Hafeez, a university professor who has accused under the blasphemy law by student groups. An investigation (PDF) into the blasphemy law by Pakistan's Center for Research and Security Studies concluded that more than 60 people have been killed extrajudicially in matters connected to the law. The list includes numerous judges, lawyers and politicians who have attempted to have the law amended.

From Jurist, Jan. 30. Used with permission.