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More problems in Pakistan

A Pakistani district court yesterday condemned to death Younis Masih, a Christian accused of blasphemy.  The judges also condemned to man to pay a fine amounting to 100 thousand Rupees. Defence lawyers denounce a lack of evidence and accuse police of negligence for not having carried out a thorough investigation into the case.

Police had registered a blasphemy case against Masih on September 10, 2005: according to charges laid against him he allegedly made derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad and the Koran at during an argument with a group of Muslims, an offence punishable by hanging or life imprisonment according to state law.

Masih’s lawyer explains that “the sentence is based on nothing.  Evidence based on the hearsay of Muslims only serves to have a man killed”. The lawyer went on to explain the dynamics of the case: “Christians had arranged a spiritual gathering at Chungi Ammarsidhu in September 9, 2005, at which a neighbour had objected”. Abdul Aziz, a plaintiff in the case began an argument with Masih “demanding that they perform Islamic rituals instead of Christian rites. The argument turned hot during, and two days later the charges of blasphemy were laid”.

On Lina Joy, from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has been helping on her case:

Today the Federal Court of Malaysia refused to recognize Lina Joy’s conversion from Islam to Christianity, a decision with grave consequences for religious freedom in Malaysia.

"This decision violates international law and stands in wrongheaded defiance of the universal human right to religious freedom," said Angela Wu, International Director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who attended a hearing for Ms. Joy and has testified before the United States Congress on anti-conversion laws. "International law and the Malaysian Constitution guarantee the right to choose your own religious beliefs and change those beliefs according to your conscience. Today the Federal Court made it clear that if the state says you are a Muslim, those rights don’t apply to you. Unfortunately for Lina Joy, a universal human right has been trumped by the state’s insistence that she bow to sharia law."

The Becket Fund has issued a legal opinion on the case. For links to this and other resources, scroll down.

Case Page: http://www.becketfund.org/index.php/case/107.html

Legal Analysis: http://www.becketfund.org/files/12abd.pdf

Angela Wu in the Wall Street Journal on Lina Joy:  http://www.becketfund.org/files/e5c0e.pdf

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