Pakistan Christian couple granted bail in landmark blasphemy decision

Originally published in Christian Today

A Pakistani court has granted bail to a Christian couple accused of blasphemy, citing insufficient evidence. A rights group has called it a “landmark judgment,” which has sparked calls for changes to the nation’s controversial blasphemy laws.

Kiran Bibi and Shaukat were granted bail on October18 by Additional Sessions Court Judge Mian Shahid Javed, UCA News reported, adding that the couple had been accused of defiling the Quran.

Javed cited a lack of evidence of “willful damage or defilement of the original text of the Holy Quran” under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code.

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Nasir Saeed, director of the UK-based Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, or CLAAS, lauded the decision in a statement shared with The Christian Post.

“This landmark judgment breaks from the norm,” Saeed added.

In Pakistan, violating Section 295-B could lead to life imprisonment. The couple was accused by Muhammad Tamoor, who claimed to have seen Quranic pages fly out of the couple’s house on September 8.

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Tamoor claimed he had been given access to the house by Kiran Bibi. She suggested the pages might have been accidentally thrown by her children — all minors. The court noted gaps in the evidence and report.

CLAAS also mentioned the court found no credible eyewitness testimony that backed the severe allegations. Questions were raised about the actual perpetrator.

The couple’s bail was set at 100 000 Pakistani rupees ($R6 853). The court ordered police to conduct further inquiries into the allegations.

Saeed welcomed the call for further investigation. “This decision underscores the importance of a thorough investigation to establish the facts and ensure justice prevails,” he was quoted as saying.

He also emphasised the need for changes in Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. These laws have led to sentences of death or life imprisonment, although no executions have occurred.

In August, attacks against Christians occurred in Jaranwala town, where churches and homes were torched following blasphemy accusations against two local Christians.

Christians make up roughly 1.6% of Pakistan’s 241 million population.

In a separate case last August, a two-member Supreme Court bench granted bail to another Christian who was also accused of blasphemy against Islam.

Justices Qazi Fael Isa and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah ordered the release of Salamat Mansha Masih, expressing concern about the frequency of blasphemy accusations. The state must protect suspects until cases are resolved, the justices said.

In another instance, a sessions court granted bail to two Christian nurses in September 2021. It was the first time bail was granted in a blasphemy case at this level, attorneys noted at the time.

Accusations often lead to mob violence, with little consequence for false accusers.

Lower courts often bow to Islamist pressure, leading to numerous convictions. In January, a Muslim woman was sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy via text messages, marking another rare instance of such a ruling against a Muslim.

In December 2021, a mob killed a Sri Lankan man over blasphemy allegations. Although arrests were made, no legislative changes have occurred to curb false accusations.

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