Faisalabad: man who killed two Christian brothers charged with blasphemy is sentenced to death
Maqsood Ahmed, a Muslim, will also have to pay a US$ 47,000 fine. Rashid and Sajid Masih Emmanuel were shot dead on 19 July 2010 as they left a local courthouse, handcuffed. The two had been accused under the ‘black law’ but were on their way to being acquitted.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan's Faisalabad district sentenced to death Maqsood Ahmed, a Muslim, for killing two Christian brothers in July 2010. The two had been accused of blasphemy. Judge Raja Muhammad Arshad imposed the sentence on Monday. He also gave the convicted murderer an additional ten years on another charge and imposed a fine of US$ 47,000. The latter will also have to pay US$ 6,000 to a police officer wounded during the shooting that left Rashid and Sajid Masih Emmanuel dead. This is the first time that the law is enforced against the murderer of two innocent Christians, a Christian group said.
On 19 July 2010, Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Masih Emmanuel, two Christian brothers respectively 32 and 30 years of age, had gone to court in Faisalabad, Punjab, for their trial on blasphemy charges. They were killed as they left the courthouse.
Maqsood Ahmed, a Muslim man, was convicted in their murder. He shot the two handcuffed Christian brothers in cold blood as they were being taken back to prison after the court hearing.
During its investigation, police determined that Maqsood Ahmed was materially responsible for the double murder.
The first hearing in his trial was held on 6 September 2010 in front an anti-terrorism court in Faisalabad.
The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLASS), which provides free legal aid to blasphemy victims (and others), closely monitored the trial that ended on Monday.
For CLASS, this is the first case in which someone is convicted of murder for killing innocent Christians.
“We are very satisfied with the final judgement”, the group told ANS. “If the courts try blasphemy cases on their merit, they will find that most are unsubstantiated.”
Because they had been charged under the ‘black law’ and were expected to be acquitted, the Christian community feared possible retaliation against Rashid and Sajid Masih Emmanuel during the trial itself. Egged on by their imams, many local Muslims had in fact staged protests, calling for the two Christian brothers to be put to death.
The Emmanuel brothers, one of whom was a pastor, were arrested a month before their death after blasphemous flyers insulting Muhammad and bearing their names began appearing.
At the time of their murder, local sources said that the two murder victims would have been acquitted because graphologists were going to testify that the signatures on the flyers were different from the actual handwriting style of the two brothers.
The assassination of Rashid and Sajid brought back memories of a similar incident involving Manzoor Masih, a Christian man accused of blasphemy who was also shot dead outside a courthouse, in Gujranwala, on 5 April del 1994.
Before their death, Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel were in charge of the ‘United Ministries Pakistan’ in Daudnagar, near a Christian colony in Wareispura.
Their murder in connection with the infamous blasphemy law sparked clashes between Christians and Muslims, which were contained only by the imposition of a state of emergency.
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When Pakistan was created, its Founding Father Ali Jinnah endorsed the principles of religious freedom and equal rights for all, irrespective of caste or creed. The succession of constitutions that followed went counter to these ideals, and opened the door to persecution and violence against minorities. Beside blasphemy, Christians and members of other non-Muslim religions have to deal with the problem of forced conversions and marriages.
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Gulzar Masih and his son Suleman own a bookstore. They were forced to flee to avoid being attacked by a mob. Both are accused of burning a copy of the Qur‘an. In reality, they were set up by the older Masih’s Muslim business partner, who was envious of their success. Catholic priest bemoans the abuses linked to the ‘black law’ and warns that “extremist elements are getting stronger” in Pakistan.
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Prayers and special Masses are being said in Pakistan and around the world for the 45-year-old Christian woman, sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. Meanwhile, Arif Masih and his family are safe; he had been arrested on blasphemy charges and later released. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said he was in good conditions and that he did not experience any violence in prison. Another attack is carried out against a Christian in Mardan.