LOS ANGELES (BP)–Three Muslims convicted of killing a Christian in Pakistan’s Punjab Province for refusing to convert to Islam have been given life sentences, attorneys for the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) have told Compass Direct News.
Ghulam Rasool, Amjad Iqbal and Kashir Saleem were convicted on July 7 for torturing and killing Rasheed Masih on March 9, 2010, and were sentenced by a court in Mian Channu to life in prison, which in Pakistan is 25 years, Compass reported July 22. The court also ordered each convict to pay 100,000 rupees (US$1,153) to Masih’s family. A fourth suspect, Muhammad Asif, was acquitted.
“The ECLJ also plans to file an appeal in the Lahore High Court concerning the acquittal of the fourth defendant,” said Asif Aqeel, director of the Lahore-based ECLJ-supported Community Development Initiative. “The callous treatment by the police presented lots of challenges in proving that Masih was killed by the defendants. However, extensive work by our legal team in Pakistan and in the United States resulted in a conviction for the three defendants in this case.”
Masih’s family said they are grateful to ECLJ attorneys for assisting the court in making its judgments.
Muslim businessmen were jealous of 36-year-old Rasheed Masih’s success as a potato merchant in Mian Channu district because he was a Christian, Ageel told Compass in relaying the account of Masih’s brother Asi. When Rasheed Masih met with the defendants at their farmhouse to discuss business on March 9, 2010, they asked him to convert to Islam. When he refused, the four Muslims beat him to death with iron rods.
A bystander informed Asi Masih, who then called police, according to the account relayed by Ageel.
Police officers along with the victim’s brother found the bloodied Masih and rushed him to a hospital, but he died on the way after stating to police that he was tortured by Rasool and his accomplices.
Police, however, denied that Masih ever gave such a statement and refused to charge or arrest the defendants, Aqeel said. A large number of Christians blocked an inter-city highway and demanded that the killers be arrested. Police conceded after the Christian community’s five-hour protest.
Iqbal Masih of the Mian Channu Parish of the Church of Pakistan told Compass last year that Rasheed Masih was a devoted Christian, and that both he and his brother Asi had refused Muslim pressure to convert to Islam. The Muslims had been threatening both brothers for six months before the murder, according to Asi Masih.
A hospital autopsy by conducted in Mian Channu revealed 24 wounds to Masih’s body, according to a copy of the report obtained by Compass.
The website of the European Centre for Law and Justice, headquartered in Strasbourg, France, described the ECLJ as an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide. It was founded by Jay Sekulow and Thomas Patrick Monaghan of the American Center for Law and Justice in 1998.
Jeff M. Sellers writes for Compass Direct News (www.compassdirect.org), based in Santa Ana, Calif.