In 2009, police officers arrested Imran Masih after eyewitnesses said that he set fire to books containing verses of the Qur’an while he was clearing out his grocery shop in Faisalabad.
For this reason, the government accused him of blasphemy. Authorities said he insulted Islam; crime that carries a life sentence.
He is not the only one
Masih is not the only one accused of insulting Islam, Asia Bibi, also from Punjab Province, went through a similar situation. In the same year, 2009, just weeks before Masih was arrested, she faced charges for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad. She spent almost ten year in prison waiting for the death penalty.
Her case called the world’s attention and has brought Pakistan’s blasphemy laws into the spotlight in recent years. Despite all the years she spent in that process, she never lost faith and was eventually freed.
That same faith is the one Masih is holding for his case. And although he has been waiting for about 11 years for his day in court for an appeal petition, he sees a light of hope because he received a new court date.
After 70 times the court has postpone his appeal hearing, he got the latest court date set for 6th July.
Khalil Tahir Sandhu, Masih’s lawyer affirms that there were “substantial contradictions” in the statements concerning the date and time of the alleged incident.
“I have tried my very best to get justice for Imran and will continue to do so. I remain hopeful that he will be acquitted,” the lawyer said.
“In our country, what so often happens is that they first arrest the accused and only later do they check the evidence,” he added.