Pakistan prosecutor asks Christians to convert to avoid conviction
LAHORE (Express Tribune):
A prosecutor has reportedly asked members of a minority community facing trial in an anti-terrorism court over lynching of two men that he ‘can guarantee their acquittal’ if they renounce their faith and embrace Islam, rights activists claim.
Some 42 Christians have been charged with lynching the two men after twin suicide blasts targeting a Sunday Mass in two churches in the Christian neighbourhood of Youhanabad in Lahore on March 15, 2015.
Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with a mob lynching the two men, suspecting them of involvement in the blasts.
“Taking advantage of their presence at ATC-1 Lahore, Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah gathers the accused outside the courtroom and asks them to embrace Islam,” said Joseph Franci, a rights activist who was involved in providing legal assistance to the accused in the case. “He asks them if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case,” Joseph said.
The activist said they [the accused] remained silent and were dumbfounded and added that one, Irfan Masih, had spoken out and said that he was ready to be hanged if he embraced Islam.
Naseeb Anjum Advocate, counsel for some of the accused, told The Express Tribune said that the public prosecutor’s offer was not new and added that he had also given this offer to some of the accused about six months back but they simply ignored it.
“They [lawyers] believe in independence of the court, but why is the DDPP blackmailing them?”
“The government should get rid of such elements that bring bad name to the state by such acts.”
Syed Anees Shah, when contacted, at first said that he did not ask them to embrace Islam, but conceded that he offered them a choice when he was told that the accused have video recording of what he said. Later, he disconnected the call in an attempt to avoid discussing the issue.