Pakistan: Christian boy, 16, accused of Facebook blasphemy again refused bail

Source:                                www.worldwatchmonitor.org

Date:                                     May 17, 2017

 

 

A Pakistani Christian boy accused of blasphemy for “liking” and “sharing” a Facebook post which “defamed and disrespected” the Kaaba in Mecca – the building at the centre of Islam’s most sacred mosque – has again been refused bail.

In February, 16-year-old Nabeel Masih was refused bail by a local magistrate, despite his lawyers’ insistence that, as a child with no prior convictions, he should be released.

Nabeel Masih, 16, appearing at a court hearing in October 2016. (Photo: The Voice Society)

But now a Districts and Sessions judge, Naveeb Iqbal, has come to the same decision, saying the boy committed a “heinous and odious act by defiling the religious feelings of Muslims and their holy place of worship”.

It was Judge Iqbal who in 2010 convicted the Christian woman Asia Bibi of blasphemy. She has been on death row ever since.

Riaz Anjum, from human rights group Pakistan for All, told World Watch Monitor the judge had acted in contravention of the law because, under Section 196 of Pakistan’s Code of Criminal Procedure, courts are prevented from hearing cases relating to blasphemy without the approval of the central or provincial government. (This is because the State perceives blasphemy to be a crime against the State.)

Masih was arrested on 18 September last year. After his arrest, many Christians living in the area went into hiding fearing reprisals, though they later returned.

In October, Masih’s lawyers reported being intimidated by the complainant’s supporters, as they made their Appeal Court appearance.

Aneeqa Maria Anthony said she was told by a lawyer for the complainant to “watch herself and stay away”. She also said about 80 people at the hearing threatened Masih’s family.

Ms Anthony added that she was “confident [Masih] has committed no crime and that is why we are representing him… Nabeel is innocent: the accusation against him has not yet been proven”.

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