Blasphemy suspect released after 3 years

Published: March 4, 2017
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LAHORE: A Christian man accused of blasphemy has been released on bail after spending more than three years behind bars. The suspect had been in jail since November 9, 2013 after he was booked under sacrilege clauses.

A month ago, a three-judge Supreme Court bench had ordered releasing P* but he could arrange the surety money as no one was ready to become his guarantor, fearing a backlash, said Advocate Nadeem Anthony, one of the suspect’s lawyers. The man, he added, has gone into hiding.

The apex court had granted bail to the suspect on February 1 against a surety of Rs300,000 and ordered releasing him.

Expressing its astonishment, the court held in its order: “We are of the view the long delay caused in the conclusion of the trial in this case where after three years and three months only examination-in-chief of a single witness has been recorded is a matter of concern for the court which shall not go unnoticed.

“The inordinate and shocking delay in the conclusion of trial in this case has made out a case for grant of bail which cannot be refused to the petitioner on any ground much less justifiable,” the judges stated.

P was booked under Sections 295-A, 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and jailed at Lahore district prison for a trial in November 2013. His bail applications had been dismissed by a district judge and the Lahore High Court as well.

Rights activist Asma Jahangir, the lead counsel of the accused, said her client had been behind bars for three years and three months when the case should have been decided within two years. “This did not happen due to the frequent lawyers’ strikes and delaying tactics adopted by the prosecution,” she believed.

Advocate Nadeem told The Express Tribune that P was booked in the case after he was passed some remarks against a Jamaatud Dawa leader.

* Name withheld to protect identity

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2017.

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