South Asia

Bail denied for boy accused of Facebook blasphemy

A Christian teenager from Pakistan who is accused of blasphemy has been denied bail. Nabeel Masih, 16, has been in custody for past five months for liking and sharing a post on Facebook, which was deemed to be offensive towards the Kaaba pillar in Mecca, which is Islam’s holiest shrine.

Masih is currently the youngest blasphemy accused in Pakistan. He is also illiterate. His lawyers had argued that he should be given bail, as he is a juvenile with no previous record of criminal activity. However the magistrate hearing his case, from Kasur court near Lahore, rejected his bail on 7 February 2017.

Nabeel Masih hails from Chak 66, Bhai Pheru, District Kasur, and was arrested on 18 September 2016. He was charged under sections 295/295A under the Pakistan Penal Code.

Section 295 pertains to “Injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class,” and Section 295-A pertains to “Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”

As a result of his arrest his family and other Christians in his village had to go in hiding which is usually the case in Pakistan. Social pressure against the immediate family of the person accused of blasphemy is very high and they can be the targets of much violence even unto the point of death.

It was reported in October 2016, that the prosecutor had threatened Masih’s counsel Advocate Aneeqa Maria and her team, inside the court premises and in the presence of the Judge. The prosecutor Advocate Amin Muzammal Chaudhry had reportedly said, “It is a blasphemy case and this man has blasphemed against Islam. You should know that Pakistan is an Islamic state. We are all Muslims. These are Muslim courts so you should not defend such a criminal. You people come here from Lahore to pursue this case. Here are so many people who you cannot face. So you better watch yourself and stay away.”

It was also reported at the time, that about 80 people at the hearing had also threatened Masih’s family. The mob threatened to burn them even as the judge announced that Nabeel could face the death sentence.