by Asif Aqeel and Shaheryar Gill
We are pleased to announce that we have won a victory for a persecuted Christian family in Pakistan. We have successfully represented Rashid Masih’s family against four Muslims who tortured and killed Masih after he refused to convert to Islam. On July 7, 2011, the Sessions Court in Mian Channu, Pakistan, announced its verdict in which it sentenced three Muslims to life imprisonment, although it acquitted the fourth Muslim.
Attorneys with the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) in Pakistan assisted the court in determining that Masih was tortured and killed by Ghulam Rasool, Amjad Iqbal, Kashir Saleem, and Muhammad Asif. The court sentenced Rasool, Iqbal, and Saleem to life imprisonment and acquitted Asif. The court further ordered each convict to pay 100,000 Pakistani rupees (roughly $1,200) as compensation to Masih’s family.
Masih’s family is thankful to the ECLJ for standing with them.
Masih was a successful potato merchant in the area of Mian Channu in Punjab, Pakistan. Asi, Masih’s brother, told the ECLJ that Muslim businessmen were jealous of his brother’s success because he was a Christian. On March 9, 2010, Masih went to the defendants’ place for a business deal. During their meeting, the defendants asked Masih to convert to Islam. When he refused, the four Muslims beat him with iron rods and killed him. A bystander informed Masih’s brother, who then called the police.
Masih’s brother and the police found Masih smeared with blood. They rushed him to the hospital, but he died on the way after stating to the police that he was tortured by Rasool and his accomplices. The police, however, denied that Masih ever gave such a statement and refused to charge or arrest the defendants. A large number of Christians blocked an intercity highway and demanded that the killers be arrested. The police conceded after the Christian community protested for five hours while blocking the highway.
This callous treatment by the police presented lots of challenges in proving that Masih was killed by the defendants. However, extensive work by our legal team in Pakistan and in the United States resulted in a conviction for the three defendants in this case. The ECLJ also plans to file an appeal in the Lahore High Court concerning the acquittal of the fourth defendant.
The European Centre for Law and Justice, headquartered in Strasbourg, France, is an international, Non-Governmental Organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide. The ECLJ holds special Consultative Status before the United Nations/ECOSOC since 2007. The ECLJ engages legal, legislative, and cultural issues by implementing an effective strategy of advocacy, education, and litigation. The ECLJ advocates in particular the protection of religious freedoms and the dignity of the person and life with the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), mechanisms afforded by the United Nations, and others. The ECLJ is online at www.eclj.org.
Asif Aqeel is Director of the Community Development Initiative (CDI), a project of the ECLJ, and is based in Lahore, Pakistan.
Shaheryar Gill is Associate Counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). The ECLJ is an international affiliate of the ACLJ.