Two Christian brothers acquitted in blasphemy case in Pakistan after implicated by personal enmity

LAHORE, Mar 2 : A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has acquitted two Christian brothers in a high-profile blasphemy case in Punjab province after it emerged that they were framed by local Muslims who implicated them over personal enmity.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan.
The case pertains to a violent mob comprising thousands of Muslims burning down 24 churches and 86 homes of Christians in Jaranwala city, some 130 km from Lahore, on August 16, 2023, on the allegations of desecration of the Quran.
The mob was led by a radical Islamist party, Tehreek-a-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). Hundreds of Christians fled their homes following the incident in Jaranwala.
Over 100 people, who were arrested for attacking the churches and Christian houses, are currently facing trial.
Police had also arrested two brothers — Umar Saleem alias Rocky and Umair Saleem alias Raja — on charges under different sections of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Anti-terrorism Court (ATC) judge Muhammad Hussain in Faisalabad on Friday ordered the acquittal of both Christian brothers after it transpired that they were framed by local Muslims who implicated them over personal enmity.
“Two Muslim individuals having personal enmity with the two brothers had plotted to implicate them in a blasphemy case,” the police said and informed the court that those two had been arrested and are in jail.
Police said that both Christian brothers have been released from jail following the court’s order.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) fact-finding mission’s report, at least 24 churches and several dozen smaller chapels as well as scores of houses were torched and looted in a series of brutal mob-led attacks against the local Christian community last August on allegations of blasphemy against the Christian brothers.
It says the mob attack on Christian worship places, their residences, and the cemetery was part of a “larger hate campaign against local Christians” and questioned the open involvement of radical Islamists and the complicity of police in the incident.
It says it was not a spontaneous or random Muslim crowd that attacked the churches and homes but part of a larger campaign of hatred against local Christians. (PTI )