LAHORE: A deputy district public prosecutor (DDPP) has been removed from an anti-terrorism court (ATC) after he allegedly asked under trial Christian accused to embrace Islam for securing bail in a lynching case.
Sources in the Punjab Prosecution Department told The Express Tribune that DDPP Syed Anees Shah was removed on Thursday night on the complaint of the accused.
Shah reportedly asked the 42 under trial Christians to embrace Islam after March 28 hearing of the case about lynching of two Muslim bystanders in the wake of suicide attacks outside two churches in Lahore’s Christian-dominated Youhanabad area in March 2015.
According to a source in the department, Shah would not be given responsibility to handle prosecution of any case. “He has been asked to report to the office of Punjab Prosecutor General till further orders. The DDPP Muhammad Azir has replaced Anees at the ATC-1,” he said, while requesting anonymity.
Aftab Gill, also an accused in the case, told The Express Tribune that he was also present when the DDPP asked the suspects to convert to Islam for their release. He said Shah also recited a few verses of the Quran to convince them.
He hoped that the new DDPP would deal with the case irrespective of religious affiliations.
“This step would help in restoring confidence of Christian accused in the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law,” Gill said. “Offer of that prosecutor meant that with change of religion, charges would be dropped and being Muslim one is above the law,” he added.
Meanwhile, PTI’s minority MPA Shunila Ruth on Friday filed a resolution in the Punjab Assembly, seeking condemnation of the house for the act of the prosecutor. She also requested for directions to stop discrimination against the Christians because of their faith.
On March 15, 2015, suicide attacks were carried out outside two churches in Youhanabad, triggering violent protests during which two Muslim men were burned to death after a mob suspected them as accomplices of the attackers.
The victims were identified as Babar Noman, a garment worker, and Hafiz Naeem, a glass cutter, of the same locality. Later, Nishtar Town police registered two FIRs against the accused.
The ATC on January 10, 2016 indicted 42 suspects for the lynching. The suspects pleaded not guilty and opted to contest their trial. No one has so far been arrested on charges of carrying out the blasts or facilitating them. However the accused Christians are behind bars for the last two years.
So far 10 out of total 92 witnesses have recorded their testimonies in the case. The next date of hearing is April 4.