Pakistan Acquits and Releases 42 Christians Imprisoned for ‘Terrorism’ After Participating in 2015 Riots

Christians hold placards as they chant slogans to condemn Quetta Church attack during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan December 17, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz)

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has acquitted and ordered the release of 42 Christians previously imprisoned for rioting after two churches in Pakistan’s largest Christian neighborhood were bombed in 2015.

Persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern reports that the verdict was reached this week after settlements were agreed upon with the families of two Muslim men who were wrongfully killed by the rioters.

The riots stemmed from a terrorist bombing of two churches in the Christian neighborhood of Youhanabad, located in Lahore. Fifteen people were killed in the bombings, including 11 Christians and four Muslims. In response, local Christians staged a riot in which two Muslim men suspected of participating in the bombings were lynched.

In the following days, police made several raids in the district, arresting about 500 people. The ATC sentenced 42 Christians for terrorism, while the church attackers reportedly went unpunished.

Two of the Christian prisoners died while waiting for a trial. The others filed an application under Section 345 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which argued that they should be released because they had reached a settlement with the families of the two deceased Muslims.

The ATC accepted this application and acquitted all suspects, including the two who died in custody, after evidence of the settlement with the two families was presented to the court.

The families of the 40 remaining prisoners have welcomed the settlement and the ATC’s verdict, notes ICC, and have reported “being pleased to see the return of their loved ones after almost five years of imprisonment.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett