A Christian man who was sentenced to life in prison for blasphemy has been acquitted by a Pakistan court.
The Lahore High Court acquitted Imran Ghafur Masih after he spent more than 10 years in prison under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. The court's decision came as a shock to his family.
"It is a day of resurrection for us," said Naveed Masih, Imran Masih's brother. "God has heard our cry and we are very thankful to him. It's a Christmas gift for us."
The alleged blashemous incident took place in 2009 when Masih was cleaning his family's bookshop. As he was preparing to burn trash, he came across a textbook with Arabic writing. Masih consulted his Muslim neighbor, Hajji Liaquat Ali, because he was concerned that the book may have contained religious writings. Ali told Masih to burn the book. After Masih did so, Ali went back and confiscated the partially burned book. He then used the book to falsely accuse Masih of burning a Quran.
News spread quickly to local mosques, and a mob of nearly 400 angry Muslims gathered at Mash's home. Masih, along with his brother and father, were beaten and doused with paraffin as the mob attempted to burn them alive. Local police showed up and arrested Masih. A mob of 1,000 Muslims then gathered outside the police station demanding that Masih be handed over to them.
Police registered a blasphemy case against Masih and distributed copies of the charges to the mob.
"We went through a very painful time during Imran's imprisonment," said Naveed Mash. "Imran lost his parents and was not allowed to attend the funeral. We lost our business and jobs which has affected our children's education and future. We have not seen any happiness during these years."
🔦 False accusations of blasphemy are common in Pakistan and are typically motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations can spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests. There are 24 Christians currently imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan.