Lahore High Court. Photograph:( WION )
Sawan Masih was convicted of insulting the prophet Muhammad and an FIR was logged in 2013
Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) hailed the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict of acquitting Sawan Masih, a Christian man on death row from the last eight years.
Sawan Masih belonged to Joseph Colony Lahore and was a sanitary worker and a father of three children, having a wife and old parents. He was convicted of insulting the prophet Muhammad.
A First Information Report (FIR) was lodged on March 8, 2013, in which the applicant stated that Sawan used derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad. He was then arrested and sent to judicial lock-up first in Lahore and then to Faisalabad.
The attached steel market of Badami Bagh`s workers in collusion with extremists in the mob attacked Joseph Colony for revenge from Christians and demanded to hand over Sawan Masih for execution at the spot. The residents had no option but to vacate the colony leaving behind their hard-earned valuables.Most of the families fled, around 200 houses burnt and looted including Sawan`s house. Sawan Masih was convicted on March 27, 2014, in the court of Ch. Ghulam Murtaza, Additional Sessions Judge Lahore for offence u/s 295-C PPC and sentenced to death along with a fine was imposed.
Naveed Walter, President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) said that the charges of blasphemy are in fact the results of personal grudges, biased behaviours and discriminatory practices, the verdict on the Sawan Masih case has proved again after Asia bibi`s case.
He added, "The blasphemy cases processed slower because in such cases the free and fair trials also become a challenge, the basic principles of criminal justice is ignored as in Sawan`s case, the trial court completely ignored a serious lapse in the prosecution case of 33 hours of unexplained inordinate delay of recording the FIR over such a sensitive issue by the complainant, the trial court based on the conviction on second version of the complainant recorded in the supplementary statement of March 15, 2013, after eight days of occurrence in a poor attempt to remove the lacuna earlier pointed out by the Supreme Court on 13th March 2013 in Suo Moto proceedings, the trial court failed to take judicial notice of the false story in which the complainant stated that suddenly the accused started uttering derogatory remarks, the statement of the accused under section 342 CrPC was completely ignored by the trial court in which he stated that he have deep respect for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his own beliefs do not allow him to commit blasphemy of any prophet".
Naveed Walter said that the victims of blasphemy face exacerbated trauma amid delays in their cases reaching trial and justice, bear spitting and abusive arguing like infidels and inhuman insulting behaviours, violent attitudes, sufferings and face extreme hardships. He said the victims of blasphemy need proper diets, health and ensure their safety in prisons and during court hearings, he added.
The HRFP has been raising voice for justice to blasphemy victims and against all discriminatory practices against minorities in Pakistan.