Munir Masih Freed On Bail
The ordeal continues for a Christian couple, Munir Masih and his wife Ruqqiya Bibbi in Pakistan, framed by neighbours and sentenced to 25 years in jail for defiling the Koran. Meanwhile the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) has intervened to assist the couple in their bail applications. Now Munir Masih is freed on bail, but his wife’s bail application is still pending.
About The Case
It all began two years ago for this couple and their six children with a minor dispute between a Muslim boy and two of their children. The Muslim boy slapped Munir Masih’s younger son, and the child’s elder brother came to the defence by striking the boy back.
That evening the Muslim boy’s parents turned up at the family’s home with relatives and began abusing Ruqqiya Bibbi.
Shortly afterwards, Munir Masih and his wife Ruqqiya Bibbi were accused by their neighbours of defiling the Koran and they were arrested. Munir Masih, a labourer, was accused of defiling the Koran, the Muslim holy book, by touching it with unwashed hands. The offence carries a life sentence under the Pakistani Penal Code.
In January 2009 the pair were released on bail only to be reported by the same neighbours in February 2009 of insulting Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, an offence which carries the death penalty under Section 295-C of the code.
During a bail application in May 2009 about 50 radical Muslim clerics tried to storm the courtroom while others promised to kill Ruqqiya and Munir whatever the outcome of their trial.
CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement), a London and Lahore-based group fighting for the rights of Christians persecuted in Pakistan, had been assisting Munir Masih and his wife Ruqqiya Bibbi in their case. In October 2009, they were released from custody on the blasphemy charge of insulting Prophet Muhammad after CLAAS filed a third application for bail. The family went into hiding. Subsequently the court dismissed the charge of blasphemy against them, but it convicted them on the charge of defiling the Koran and jailed them for 25 years.
In Lahore last week, more than two years into their ordeal, the Pakistan court finally freed Munir Masih on bail pending the outcome of his appeal against the charge of defiling the Koran. His wife, Ruqqiya Bibbi,who had been also given a 25-year sentence for the offence, is still in jail awaiting the outcome of her application for bail.
Munir Masir was released on Saturday November 27 after a decision on Tuesday November 23 by Mr Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry at the High Court in Lahore to grant him bail with a surety bond of 100,000 rupees ($2,175).
His wife’s application will be heard at the High Court in soon.
In a joint statement issued following the court’s decision to free Munir Masir on bail, CLAAS directors Nasir Saeed and Joseph Francis said: “We are very delighted by the success of this case and pray for Ruqqiya to be freed next week. But we are still concerned about the many other innocent victims of this law who are being jailed, and suffering immensely, because of their faith. CLAAS continues to campaign for the repeal of the blasphemy law and urge the government of Pakistan to amend the law.”
Think About It
Once again, seemingly vengeful people have used Pakistan’s religious defamation law to their own advantage. Blasphemy charges can be brought against anyone. Is it time for Pakistan to repeal its controversial blasphemy law?