Pakistan frees Christian prisoner as country mourns attacks
After more than five and a half years in prison for allegedly blaspheming Muhammad, Pakistani Christian Ayub Masih was freed yesterday by the country's Supreme Court. "Ayub Masih is not found guilty of committing blasphemy and allegations against Ayub are baseless and false," the court said. The charges—which essentially said he referred favorably to Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses—were part of a plot by his accusers to steal his land, the court agreed.

Christian and human rights organizations praised the ruling, but called for an end to the controversial blasphemy law.

"We congratulate the Pakistani judiciary for seeing justice finally done," said Stuart Windsor, national director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, in a press release. "We hope this latest decision will set a precedent for all future blasphemy cases and bring a ray of hope to all those still imprisoned under this legislation."

Amnesty International issued a similar call, and also asked that "the authorities to take urgent measures to ensure his safety upon release." Christian Solidarity Worldwide explains why:

Throughout the hearings, Islamic extremists packed the courtroom and threatened to kill Ayub, his lawyers and the judge if he was not convicted and hanged. At least five prisoners charged with blasphemy have been killed and at least another three have been shot at by extremists. A trial judge was also killed in 1997 after acquitting two Christians accused of blasphemy.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide estimates that as of 2001, at least 40 Muslims, 23 Ahmadis, ten Christians, and two Hindus were charged under the blasphemy law. Expect more soon from Compass Direct, International Christian ...

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