Pakistan: Petition Seeking Removal Of Terrorism Charges Against Blasphemy Accused Dismissed


Imran Rehman, a 32-year-old Catholic Christian man, has been unjustly detained in Camp Jail Lahore for the past ten months on charges of blasphemy and terrorism. Imran, a devoted father of two daughters, was working at the Lahore Metro Bus ticket office when he was taken into custody by the Cyber Crime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for allegedly sharing blasphemous material in a WhatsApp group.

The family of Imran Rehman is deeply distressed and concerned for his well-being, as they allege he is being subjected to severe torture and forced to confess to a crime he did not commit. His imprisonment has left his family without their sole breadwinner.

Joseph Jansen, Chairperson of Voice for Justice, has taken up Imran’s case and is determined to ensure justice for him and his family. Jansen is committed to exhausting every avenue to seek justice and hopes for Imran’s eventual reunification with his loved ones.

Advocate Rana Abdul Hameed filed a petition seeking the removal of terrorism charges against Imran at the anti-terrorism court. Advocate Hameed argued that Imran had been falsely labeled as a terrorist despite no involvement in any acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, on July 6, 2023, the petition was dismissed by the judge at the anti-terrorism court. Advocate Hameed plans to file a new petition in the Lahore High Court to challenge the terrorism charges against Imran.

Joseph Jansen further emphasized that the burden of proof for blasphemy accusations lies with the accuser to demonstrate malevolent intent. Regrettably, this requirement is not included in the law and is often overlooked during blasphemy prosecutions.

Jansen highlighted the abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Act by individual officers against religious minorities under the guise of hate or pressure from extremist elements. He criticized the government for not adhering to the intended mandate of the Anti-Terrorism Act, as blasphemy cases are being registered under it despite not falling within its purview. This unjust labeling of blasphemy accused as terrorists creates a perception that the accused poses a threat to society.

Jansen expressed concern that vulnerable and marginalized groups suffer severe trauma, lack access to justice, and are subjected to unfair trials under the Anti-Terrorism Act when charged with blasphemy.

He noted that the mandatory death sentence by hanging, stipulated under Section 295-C of the so-called blasphemy laws, exacerbates their plight.

The dismissal of the petition by Judge Abher Gul Khan at the anti-terrorism court in Lahore has raised concerns among human rights activists and advocates. They assert that Imran’s case should be heard in an ordinary court and argue that the unjustifiable application of terrorism charges to individuals accused of blasphemy infringes upon their rights and undermines the principles of justice.

Imran’s case underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive review of laws and procedures related to blasphemy accusations to ensure fairness, protect the rights of the accused, and prevent potential abuses of power. In collaboration with the Jubilee Campaign, Voice for Justice will continue to advocate for a just and equitable legal system that upholds human rights and religious freedom.

According to the Center for Social Justice, at least 1,949 individuals have been accused under blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2021. Sadly, a significant number of these blasphemy cases remain unresolved. One such case is that of Anwar Kenneth, who has been incarcerated for over 22 years and was sentenced to death by the Lahore session court in 2001.

Kashif Nawab

Kashif Nawab is a Director with Social Action Transformation of Humanity (SATH) in Pakistan.

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