(Photo: Reuters/Faisal Mahmood)
A special court has suspended the trial of a number of suspects alleged to have taken part in the slaughter of ten Christians, and the burning of nearly 100 houses in the Punjab province of Pakistan two years ago.
The decision was made after a key witness in the trial fled Pakistan. In the wake of the news the Anti-Terrorism Court in Faisalabad grated bail to the final three suspects who had been arrested over the atrocities that took place in August 2009. The other 63 suspects arrested in connection with the brutal killings had already been released on bail, ENInews has reported.
The chief public prosecutor had to explain to the court that a key eyewitness had fled to an “unknown place in a foreign country”. The court then decided to suspend the trial temporarily, and will give the key witness one year to re-appear.
The 2009 incident was one of the most horrific seen in the region. Islamic extremists, having heard rumors that blasphemy against Islam had been committed by local Christians, quickly organized a huge mob to take revenge.
Reports from the Catholic Church explained that hundreds of militant Muslims were transported in numerous buses and trucks to Gojra, where they planned to attack the local Christian community.
ENInews has reported that some key church sources reported to them under the condition of anonymity that key Christian witnesses have been under constant pressure to have the case withdrawn.
Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, National Director of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic church, told ENInews: “This shows our plight. When our people (have to) run away under pressure, what can we do?”
The news comes following reports last month that hundreds of Muslims in Gujranwala in the north east region of the Pujab province attacked the homes of Christians, as well as a Christian school and a Presbyterian church building. Those attacks came after Islamic extremists heard that police had released two Christians accused of “blasphemy” – amid reports of another alleged desecration of the Quran, Compass Direct reported.
This new wave of violence was sparked as two Christians, Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh Mushtaq, were released after a handwriting expert hired by police determined that the latter had not written a threatening note accompanying burned pages of the Quran.
The two Christians, who had been taken into protective custody on April 15, were relocated along with family members to an undisclosed location soon after their release.
However, the next morning as news of their release spread, rumors were again spread that pages of the Quran had been burned anew. The rumors were announced over mosque loudspeakers which fueled the gathering of members of extremist groups, Compass Direct reported.
The mob rioted and hurled rocks at homes belonging to known Christians. A local elementary school owned by a Christian, was also attacked. The mob moved on to then attack the Aziz Colony Presbyterian Church.
Security forces then soon arrived to tackle the protestors and protect the besieged Christians.
Pakistan's population is made up of approximately 95% Muslim, with just 3 million Christians among the 180 million.