Ranjha Masih Acquitted of Blasphemy Charges After 14 Years of imprisonment

492

Ranjha Masih, a bus-hawker of Faisalabad, charged under the blasphemy laws, in 2003 has been acquitted. The Lahore high-court absolved the blasphemy accusations against Ranjha Masih on 10th of November in an appeal hearing.

Ranjha Masih was arrested on 8th May, 1998 under section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code. He was allegedly accused of profaning and thrashing stone at a sign-board inscribed with Muslim Holy Kalma ( a proclamation of Islamic Faith), and causing it to fall. He was adjudged and received life imprisonment on 26th April, 2003, although his lawyers immediately appealed against his conviction, but the convict had to wait another five years before he heard a life imprisonment sentence, and a was finned 50,000 Rupees.

Ranjha Masih was a part of the agitated mob who was holding a demonstration at the burial of Bishop John Joseph, who killed himself in front of a court house as a protest against the death sentence decreed to another Christian man Ayub Masih, accused of blasphemy .The enraged protestors had been throwing stones, out of which some hit a shopkeeper’s signboard that displayed a Koranic verse, and it fell.

Jubilee Campaign, coordinated a campaign by calling to arms the British Parliamentarians, to put forward their concerns about Ranjha Masih case to the Government of Pakistan and the British Foreign Office.Out of many convicts of the Blasphemy laws, Ranjha Masih has been longer in prison than any of the others accused of blasphemy.

The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a partner of the Jubilee Campaign, provided for defense lawyers for Ranjha Masih.

According to CLAAS, the 58-yr old Ranjha Masih has had depression, and is now in a very poor health.Although, he is now acquitted, his safety will still be a major concern.