A deputy district public prosecutor (DDPP) has been reportedly been removed from an anti-terrorism court (ATC) after he had allegedly asked the Christians under trial to “convert to Islam,” if they wanted to be acquitted.
In line with Joseph Francis, a rights activist: “Taking advantage of their presence at ATC-1 Lahore, Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah gathered the accused outside the courtroom and asked them to embrace Islam.” Joseph who has been providing legal aid to the accused further stated: “He asked them if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case.” Joseph Francis further detailed that the accused Christians did not respond to his offer.
The DDPP Syed Anees Shah was removed on Thursday March 30, on the complaint of the accused. Syed Anees had purportedly asked the 42 Christians after they were presented before the ATC on March 28. These Christians are facing the charges of lynching two Muslim men, in the wake of two suicide blasts at two separate churches in Lahore’s Youhanabad neighborhood.
Advocate Naseeb Anjum, defense counsel for the accused Christians revealed that the prosecutor had previously offered them bail on same conditions. He said that some of the accused Christians were offered to convert to Islam, about six months back but they ignored the offer. “They lawyers believe in independence of the court, but why is the DDPP blackmailing them? The government should get rid of such elements that bring bad name to the state by such acts,” he said.
Aftab Gill, one of the Christians named in this lynching case, told the media that DDPP presented this offer to the Christians in his presence. He said that “DDPP Syed Anees Shah asked the suspects to convert to Islam for their release. Aftab Gill further revealed that Syed Anees tried to convince the Christians to convert and recited a few verses of the Quran.
Aftab Gill expressed hope that the new DDPP will not show partiality in this case. “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.
These Christians had been arrested by the police over charges of lynching two men. The two men were set ablaze on the Ferozepur Road, while horde of Christians blocked the Ferozepur Road and protested against the twin suicide blasts in two churches in Youhanabad.
This uproar was a result of two suicide blasts in two churches in Lahore’s Christian neighborhood, Youhanabad on March 15, 2015. As a result, about 15 congregants from both churches were killed along with more than 80 got injured.