Another Christian's Blasphemy Trial Starts in Pakistan

Jailed Schoolteacher Faces Death Penalty

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ISLAMABAD, JULY 23, 2003 ( Trial proceedings against Christian schoolteacher Pervaiz Masih began on July 17 in northeast Pakistan, two years and three months after the high school principal
was jailed for alleged blasphemy.

Now 35, Masih has been refused bail since his arrest in April 2001,when teenage boys reportedly claimed he had made slanderous remarks against the Muslim prophet Mohammed while tutoring them two months earlier, Compass Direct reports.

But a report, issued two weeks after the teacher was arrested, quoted by the same source, Masih’s accusations of blasphemy were based on «professional biases and rivalry, including religious hatred.»

Masih’s family has engaged a Muslim lawyer who is trying to resolve the case at the High Court level. For security reasons, Masih is being escorted by three or four policemen in a separate vehicle from his cell at the Sialkot District Jail to the Daska court hearings, 40 minutes away.

In addition to Pervaiz Masih, six other Pakistani Christians are incarcerated on allegations of violating the country’s long-criticized blasphemy laws. Two of them arrested in 2001 are still awaiting trial, while another four sentenced to either death or life in prison are appealing their lower-court judgments.

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