Young Pakistani Christian charged with blasphemy granted bail, but will still face trial
A Pakistani Christian who has spent more than four years in prison after being accused of “blasphemy” was granted bail by the Lahore High Court on 1 March and will finally face trial.
After bail was granted Nabeel’s lawyer, Naseeb Anjum, said, “I will continue this legal fight for his acquittal.”
Nabeel attended a court hearing on 22 March and is due to appear again in court on 25 March.
Nabeel, who has always maintained his innocence, was first accused of “blasphemy” in 2016 after allegedly posting an offensive image on Facebook. At the age of 16 he was the youngest person to ever be charged with this offence.
Having been denied bail previously, Nabeel has spent more than four years in prison without trial.
Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, under which Nabeel was charged, prohibits “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings” and stipulates a maximum punishment of ten years’ imprisonment.
Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” laws are often used to make false accusations in order to settle personal grudges. Christians are especially vulnerable, as simply stating their beliefs can be construed as “blasphemy” and the lower courts usually favour the testimony of Muslims, in accordance with sharia (Islamic law).
Acknowledging a need to restrain the abuse of “blasphemy” laws and protect all victims of false accusation, the government of Pakistan has appointed Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and the Middle East.