Three Muslims convicted of
killing a Christian in Pakistan’s Punjab Province for refusing to
convert to Islam last year have been given life sentences, according to
attorneys for the European Centre for Law and Justice in
The Sessions Court in Mian Channu on July 7
convicted Ghulam Rasool, Amjad Iqbal and Kashir Saleem of torturing and
killing Rasheed Masih on March 9, 2010, and sentenced them to life in
prison, which in Pakistan is 25 years. The court also ordered each
convict to pay 100,000 rupees ($1,153) to Masih’s family. A fourth
suspect, Muhammad Asif, was acquitted.
“The ECLJ also plans
to file an appeal in the Lahore High Court concerning the acquittal of
the fourth defendant,” said Asif Aqeel, director of the Lahore-based,
ECLJ-supported Community Development Initiative. “The callous treatment
by the police presented lots of challenges in proving that Masih was
killed by the defendants. However, extensive work by our legal team in
Pakistan and in the United States resulted in a conviction for the three
defendants in this case.”
Masih’s family said they were grateful to ECLJ attorneys for assisting the court in making its judgments.
Aqeel said Masih’s brother, Asi, said that Muslim businessmen were
jealous of Rasheed Masih’s success as a potato merchant in Mian Channu,
Khanewal district because he was a Christian. When the 36-year-old
victim met with the defendants at their farmhouse to discuss business on
March 9, 2010, they asked him to convert to Islam. When he refused, the
four Muslims beat him to death with iron rods, Aqeel said.
A bystander informed Asi Masih, who said he then called police.
officers along with the victim’s brother found Masih smeared with
blood. They rushed him to a hospital, but he died on the way after
stating to police that he was tortured by Rasool and his accomplices,
Police, however, denied that Masih ever gave
such a statement and refused to charge or arrest the defendants, Aqeel
said. A large number of Christians blocked an intercity highway and
demanded that the killers be arrested. Police conceded after the
Christian community’s five-hour protest.
The Rev. Iqbal
Masih of the Mian Channu Parish of the Church of Pakistan told Compass
last year that Rasheed Masih was a devoted Christian, and that both he
and his brother Asi had refused the Muslims’ pressure to convert to
Islam. The Muslims had been threatening both brothers for six months
before the murder, according to Asi Masih.
An autopsy by
Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Mian Channu revealed 24 wounds on the body
of Masih, according to a copy of the report obtained by Compass.
The European Centre for Law and Justice, headquartered in Strasbourg,
France, is an international Non-Governmental Organization dedicated to
the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide.