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INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Lawyer accused of Christian girl’s murder gets bail

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A court in Lahore, Pakistan, has granted bail to a wealthy Muslim lawyer accused of the Jan. 22 torture, rape and murder of his 12-year-old domestic servant, Shazia Bashir.

Shazia, whose family is Catholic, had been working as a domestic laborer for Choudry Naeem for eight months at a salary equivalent to about $12 per month, the Catholic News Agency reported. Her parents had repeatedly been denied visitation and found her in serious condition when they finally were allowed to visit. She was taken a hospital in Lahore, where medical personnel reportedly discovered evidence of torture and rape. Shazia later died at the hospital.

Naeem is a former president of the Lahore’s High Court who reportedly has close relations with the Pakistani army, the Punjab government, and the Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaz), the news service reported. He allegedly offered Shazia’s family the equivalent of $250 to keep silent about her treatment.

Naeem’s lawyer claimed that Shazia’s autopsy report did not indicate she had been tortured to death, the Pakistan Daily Times reported. He said Shazia was suffering from an “infection caused by previous injuries.”

Child labor is illegal in Pakistan.

The human rights organization representing Shazia’s family said it faces huge challenges in seeing Naeem receive a just sentence.

“While the Pakistani government was quick to make promises and pledges along the lines of ‘justice will be done,” it has done little to honor such admirable intentions,” said Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS UK, which provides free legal aid to victims of religious intolerance in Pakistan, well as shelter and financial support for the victims and their families. “Shazia was poor and a Christian so their inaction, although deeply disappointing, comes as little surprise.

“Like David against Goliath, this is shaping up to be a battle of right vs. might,” Saeed added.

ISLAMIC COURTS PLAN DRAWS KENYA PROTESTS — Christian groups in Kenya have expressed alarm over a proposal to expand the scope and status of Islamic courts in the country at a time when Islamic radicals have begun to agitate their cause there.

The draft version of a new constitution for Kenya would expand the scope of Islamic courts to include civil and small claims cases, upgrade the Muslim tribunals to high court status and establish them nationwide, the Compass Direct news service reported. Currently, the Islamic courts function only in Kenya’s Coast Province and decide matters of personal status, marriage, divorce or inheritance. Their decisions can be appealed to the country’s secular high court.

Twenty-three leaders of churches and Christian organizations in Kenya released a statement Feb. 1 asserting their opposition to any inclusion of such religious courts, Compass Direct reported.

“It is clear that the Muslim community is basically carving for itself an Islamic state within a state,” the Kenyan church leaders stated. “This is a state with its own sharia [Islamic law]-compliant banking system; its own sharia-compliant insurance; its own Halaal [lawful in Islam] bureau of standards; and it is now pressing for its own judicial system.”

Christians make up 80 percent of Kenya’s 39 million people, while Muslims make up 10 percent. A similar proposal in a 2005 referendum and Christian groups have declared their intention to defeat the proposed constitution if the section on Islamic courts is not dropped, Compass Direct reported. Some Muslim extremists have said they will demand their own state and introduce sharia law if the provision is removed from the draft constitution.

In mid-January, sympathizers of the al Shabaab Islamic terrorist militia protested in Nairobi to demand the release of radical Muslim cleric Abdullah Al-Faisal, who had entered Kenya Dec. 31, Compass Direct reported. Al-Faisal is on a global terrorism list and reportedly was deported Jan. 21. At least one person died when the protests turned violent, while five civilians and six police officers were injured.

MUSLIM ACTIVISTS PROTEST LEGAL CHURCH — Demonstrators from 16 Islamic organizations, including one hard-line group, descended on a neighborhood in West Java, Indonesia, Feb. 15 in an effort to close a church that has been legally operating since 1992.

Indonesia requires the permission of more than 60 neighbors and a permit from local authorities to establish a place of worship, the Compass Direct news service reported. M. Tetelepta, pastor of the Galilea Protestant Church in the Galaxy area of Bekasi City, told Compass Direct the church had the required consent before purchasing the property in 2006, which was done in cooperation with the government.

Murhali Baeda, head of the local branch of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, told the Antara news agency that posters and banners in the area prove the church is not accepted by the community. He also accused the congregation of offering people incentives like food to profess faith in Christ.

“At night praises to their God in the form of songs disturbs the people’s sleep,” Baeda told the news agency.

The pastor denied the church bribed people to accept Jesus and pledged worship services would continue as usual, in spite of the demonstrations.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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