Local court has sentenced a Christian to lifetime imprisonment over blasphemy charges. Respondent Zafar Bhatti, was tried by the court within the premises of the Adiala Central Jail, Rawalpindi. On May 3, the court sent him to lifelong imprisonment despite there was lack of sound evidence against him.
Notorious Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Telegraphic Section 25D were invoked against Zafar Bhatti back in 2012. He was accused of sending ‘blasphemous’ text messages from his mobile phone. The SIM purportedly used was not registered to his name; moreover, he himself denies the charges.
Since the accusations were leveled against him, he has been behind the bars in Adiala Jail. In the view of sensitivity of the case, he was being tried in the jail premises. On April 24, the court tried him and the decision was reserved. On May 3, he was handed a decree of lifetime imprisonment.
Charity and advocacy group CLAAS has been providing legal aid to Zafar Bhatti, has decided to challenge the decision. For this reason they intent to move the Lahore High Court. CLAAS has been trying to get his case transferred to Lahore as there had been mammoth-sized threats to his life as well as to his defense attorney.
Back in 2012, the lawyers’ bar passed a resolution that no lawyer will represent Zafar Bhatti in the court; nonetheless, the legal team of CLAAS took up the responsibility to represent Zafar Bhatti before the court.
Remarking in this regard, Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK expressed disappointment over the fact that despite there was no evidence against him, instead of acquitting him the court handed him a lifetime imprisonment sentence.
“The lower court’s judges always hesitate to make decisions on the merit, or free people accused of blasphemy, and instead transfer their burden to the higher court without realizing how their decision will impact the accused and their families’ lives.
CLAAS is going to appeal against the lower court’s decision and believes Bhatti is innocent and will be freed by the higher court. But it will take several years for his case to be heard by the High court, and until then he and his family will continue suffering needlessly,” he stated.