LAHORE, Pakistan, January 31, 2020 (Morning Star News) – Maintaining their innocence, 39 Christians accused of killing two Muslims after 2015 church bombings in Pakistan reached an agreement to pay victim families in exchange for acquittal this week, sources said.
An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Wednesday (Jan. 29), acquitted all 39 Christians and one Muslim accused in the killings that took place after Taliban suicide bombers attacked two churches in March 2015, killing at least 15 civilians and two policemen and wounding more than 70 others in the Youhanabad area of Lahore.
“The five years that I spent in jail cannot be described in words – there were times when I had lost hope of seeing my family,” Irfan Bashir Masih, one of the acquitted, told Morning Star News. “I was not even present at the scene when the two Muslim youths were burned alive, yet I was involved in the case by the police like many other innocent people of my locality.”
He said that the acquittals in the “false case” had reinforced his faith in Christ.
“I belong to a very poor family and had no hope of being with them again,” he said. “I am happy that I’m back with my family and look forward to starting my life afresh.”
Masih confirmed media reports that a public prosecutor had offered the accused freedom if they converted to Islam. In May 2017 Lahore Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah was accused of telling the Christian prisoners that they would be freed if they converted to Islam. He was reportedly found guilty of proselytism and suspended.
The Anti-Terrorism Court in 2016 indicted 42 people – all of them already in jail – in three cases, two pertaining to rioting and the third to murder of the two Muslim men. Two of the accused Christians died in prison, allegedly due to lack of access to medical treatment. The other living suspect acquitted under the settlement is a Muslim, Muhammad Rizwan, arrested only because he appeared in the crowd during the rioting.
The ATC acquitted the accused, including those who died, after some of the slain Muslims’ relatives, Muhammad Nawaz, Khadija Bibi and Muhammad Iqbal, told the court they had arrived at an agreement with the suspects and would have no objections to their acquittal.
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Source: Christian Headlines