Date: June 29, 2018
Yaqoob Bashir, age 25, was accused by a Muslim cleric, Talib Hussain, of burning pages of a booklet carrying Quranic verses in Mirpurkhas, located in Pakistan’s Sindh Province, on June 4, 2015. He was then arrested under Section 295 - B of Pakistan’s Penal Code, commonly referred to as blasphemy laws.
While speaking with ICC, Ranjha Masih, a local human rights defender, said, “Bashir was set to have a hearing in court on June 23 and before appearing, the young Christian wanted to pray at night. However, the prisoners with him did not allow him to pray in front of them. When Bashir continued, four of them got annoyed and beat him very badly. He sustained injuries to his face, eyes, chin, and head.”
When Bashir appeared before the court on June 23, his shirt and face were covered in dried blood. This got the attention of the Justice Javaid Iqbal of the Session Court of Mirpurkhas. When asked, Bashir explained what happened the previous night. Justice Iqbal then issued orders for Bashir to be moved to a separate cell and for the other prisoners to appear before court to testify about the incident.
“It is sad to hear that Christians are not secure even in police custody,” Bishop Samson Shukardin, Bishop of the Hyderabad Diocese, told ICC. “It is the duty of the state to ensure the protection of all citizens. If a young Christian is facing violence and torture in jail, then one can only imagine the new heights of persecution.”
“At this stage, I am worried for his life,” Bishop Shukardin continued. “Allowing an attack on a mentally disabled prisoner shows that the prison authorities are not sincerely trying to protect the citizens nor does the government have a clear policy to curb extremist movements.”
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “ICC is deeply concerned for the safety of Yaqoob as he continues to fight for his freedom in Pakistan. It is very disturbing to see that prison authorities would allow fellow prisoners to attack and severely injure Yaqoob for merely exercising his religious freedom rights. ICC also applauds the actions of Justice Iqbal for quickly shifting Yaqoob to a safer cell and for confronting his assailants. Hopefully justice will be done on Yaqoob’s behalf.”