LAHORE, Pakistan – An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan’s Faisalabad district on Monday sentenced to death a Muslim man who had gunned down two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy on July 7 last year. The court also imposed a fine of $47,784 on the convict.
Maqsood alias Soodi was convicted of killing the Rev. Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and his 30-year-old brother, Sajid Emmanuel, and injuring police inspector Mohammad Hussain.
The convict was also sentenced to 10-year imprisonment each under Section 7-C of the Anti-Terrorism Act and 324 of the Pakistan Penal Code and a fine of $2380. Under Section 337-D, he will pay $5,950 compensation to the injured inspector and serve a 10-year term.
The Civil Lines Police had registered a blasphemy case against the two brothers on charges of distributing handwritten blasphemous pamphlets and arrested them.
The two brothers were killed days after handwriting experts notified police that signatures on papers denigrating Prophet Muhammad did not match those of the accused. Expected to be exonerated soon, the two leaders of United Ministries Pakistan were being led in handcuffs back to the Civil Lines Police Station under police custody when they were shot dead.
Rizwan Paul, president of advocacy group Life for All, had at that time told Compass Direct News that five armed, masked men opened fire on the two Christians amid crowds outside Faisalabad District and Sessions Court.
“Sajid died on the spot,” while Rashid Emmanuel died later, Paul said.
CLF President Khalid Gill had claimed that the bodies of the two Christians bore cuts and other signs of having been tortured, including marks on their faces, while the brothers were in police custody.
As news of the murders reached the slain brothers’ neighborhood of Dawood Nagar, Waris Pura, Faisalabad, Christians came out of their homes to vent their anger. Police fired teargas cannons at Christian protesters, who in turn threw stones. Eight people were arrested that day for damaging property and burning tires.
The report by handwriting experts presented a major setback to the case filed against Emmanuel and his younger brother under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy laws.
Muslims staged large demonstrations calling for the death penalty for the brothers, who were arrested when Rashid Emmanuel agreed to meet a mysterious caller at a train station but was instead surrounded by police carrying photocopied papers that denigrated Islam’s prophet – supposedly signed by the pastor and his brother and bearing their telephone numbers.
The Muslim who allegedly placed the anonymous call to the pastor, Mohammad Khurram Shehzad, was the same man who filed blasphemy charges against Emmanuel and his brother and was already present at the Civil Lines Police Station when the pastor and an unnamed Christian arrived in handcuffs.
Pagaan of the Harmony Foundation had told CDN that on July 1, 2010, Rashid Emmanuel received an anonymous phone call from a man requesting to see him, but the pastor declined as he was due to lead a prayer service in Railways Colony, Faisalabad. After the service, Emmanuel received a call at about 8 p.m. from the same man, who this time described himself as a respectable school teacher.
He said that Emmanuel agreed to meet him at the train station, accompanied by the unnamed Christian. As they reached the station, Civil Lines police surrounded them, showed them photocopies of a three-page document and arrested them for blaspheming Mohammad.
The police released the young, unnamed Christian after a couple hours, and on July 4 officers arrested Emmanuel’s younger brother, a graduate student of business. On July 10 and 11 hundreds of enraged Muslims paraded to the predominantly Christian colony of Dawood Nagar calling for the immediate death of the two Christian brothers. Some chanted, “Hang the blasphemers to death immediately,” CDN sources said, adding that the mob hurled obscenities at Christ, Christians and Christianity.
Some 500 protesters gathered on July 10, while on July 11 more than 1,600 demonstrated, according to Joseph Francis, head of Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement. Fearful Christians locked their homes, while others fled the area, as the demonstrators had threatened a repeat of the violence wreaked on Korian and Gojra towns in July and August 2009.
Khurram Shehzad had filed the blasphemy case on July 1 under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which are commonly abused to settle personal scores. Shehzad, a merchant of Rail Bazar, Faisalabad, filed the charge after his servant told him that the two Christians had put up blasphemous posters at a truck station.
Section 295-C states that “whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammad shall be punishable with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall be liable to fine.”
Section 295-A of the blasphemy laws prohibits injuring or defiling places of worship and “acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class of citizens.” Section 295-B makes willful desecration of the Quran or a use of its extract in a derogatory manner punishable with life imprisonment.
The Emmanuel brothers had been running United Ministries Pakistan for the last two years in Dawood Nagar area of Faisalabad.
The last known Christian to die as a result of a false blasphemy charge was Robert Danish on September 15, 2009. The 22-year-old Christian was allegedly tortured to death while in custody in Sialkot on a charge of blaspheming the Quran. Local authorities claimed he committed suicide.
But area Christians say police killed Danish after the mother of his Muslim girlfriend contrived a charge against him of desecrating Islam’s scripture. The allegation led to calls from mosque loudspeakers to punish Christians, prompting an Islamic mob to attack a church building in Jathikai village on September 11 and the beating of several of the 30 families forced to flee their homes. Jathikai was Danish’s native village.
Faisalabad was the site of the suicidal protest of Bishop John Joseph. The late Roman Catholic bishop of Faisalabad took his own life in May 6, 1998, to protest the injustice of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.