In 2018, Nabeel Masih became Pakistan’s youngest blasphemy convict when a court sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
A Pakistani court has granted bail to a Christian convicted in 2018 when he was still a teenager for insulting Islam by posting a photo of Islam’s holiest site on social media, a lawyer said. defense.
The court order in the eastern city of Lahore came more than four years after Nabeel Masih was arrested at the age of 16 after a mob accused him of committing blasphemy by sharing a photo of Kaaba in Mecca on Facebook.
According to his lawyer, Naseeb Anjum, Masih was released on bail by the High Court in Lahore. It was not known exactly when Masih would be released.
Blasphemy has long been a controversial issue in Pakistan. National and international human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
In 2018, Masih became the youngest blasphemy convict in Pakistan when the court sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Since then, the British Asian Christian Association has supported a legal battle for his release.
Anjum said he would try to complete the paperwork to free Masih, now 20, quickly. “I will continue this legal fight for his acquittal,” he added.
Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, an attorney for the man who brought the original charge against Masih, confirmed that Masih had been released on bail, but provided no further details.
Juliet Chowdhry, board member of the British Asian Christian Association, said in a statement that she was happy that Masih was released, but noted that he “has lost many of his most important years of development” .
Chowdhry said Masih should be compensated for his bogus conviction to help restore his life, and the organization will pursue this for him.
“We call on Christians around the world to pray for him as we continue the battle,” she said.
A Punjab governor was killed by his own guard in 2011 after defending a Christian, Aasia Bibi, accused of blasphemy.
She was acquitted after spending eight years in the death row and left Pakistan to join her family in Canada after receiving threats.
Human rights activists claim that the strict blasphemy laws have been used against followers of other religions as well as against minority Muslim sects such as the Shiites and Ahmadiyas in the Sunni-majority country.
The laws are treated as sacred, but religious experts say there is no clear definition of “blasphemy” in Islamic jurisprudence, nor an agreement on punishment.
Since the 1980s, nearly 80 people have been killed by angry individuals or mobs even before their trial was concluded in court.
Between 2011 and 2015, the latest period for which consolidated data are available, more than 1,296 blasphemy cases were filed in Pakistan.