Pakistani Christians gather in Lahore to demand justice for cousins accused of blasphemy

(Reuters/Mohsin Raza)Members of the Pakistani Christian community carry wooden crosses and a casket during a demonstration to condemn the death of a Christian couple in a village in Punjab province on Tuesday, in Lahore November 5, 2014.

More than 200 Christians have gathered in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore on March 2 to call on the government to ensure justice for two cousins who are accused of blasphemy.

Christians belonging to Catholic and Protestant churches have attended a rally to demand justice for Sajid and Patras Masih who were accused of posting blasphemous images on Facebook.

Patras, a sweeper at a local bank branch, had voluntarily surrendered to authorities on Feb. 19 after a mob of enraged protesters stormed their neighborhood. Days after Patras surrendered to the authorities, Sajid was summoned to the headquarters of Federal Investigation Agency and was ordered to hand over his mobile phone.

Sajid had reportedly thrown himself out of a fourth-floor window of the FIA headquarters in an attempt to commit suicide after officials allegedly told him to perform oral sex on his cousin during interrogation.

Christian leaders are calling for an independent inquiry into the case and a fair trial for the accused, who hail from Shahadra near Lahore.

"We are all Sajid and Patras Masih. Do not push us to the wall. Sexual harassment by police is both immoral and irreligious. Sajid is a kid and a Pakistani. We demand proper medical treatment for him," Bishop Azad Marshall of Raiwind said at the gathering, according to UCA News.

The rally was organized by the Pakistan Christian Action Committee (PCAC), which was created on March 1 during a meeting of Christians at the National Council of Churches in Pakistan.

"The committee will function as a permanent ecumenical entity to counter the increasing cases of violence against minority Christians. Peaceful protests will be carried out all over the country until the Christian youths get justice. The ongoing persecution has become a national issue. We are also ready for martyrdom," said Pastor Amjat Niamat, convener of the PCAC.

Sajid, who survived the jump from the fourth-floor window of the FIA building, has been placed in an intensive care unit at the Mayo Hospital in Lahore, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday.

Hospital officials have said that Sajid will need multiple surgeries on his neck, face and legs, but he is still too critical to operate on.

Just hours after jumping from the FIA building, Sajid had reportedly recorded a video testifying that officials had beaten him during his interrogation and had alleged that the FIA officials had tried to compel him to perform oral sex on his cousin.

Aneeqa Maria, the lawyer for the cousins, said that Patras had corroborated Sajid's account, without being prompted with details. However, FIA officials have denied the allegations, claiming that Sajid jumped out of the building because he was afraid that he would also be accused of blasphemy.

Khalid Saeed, an FIA investigator who was present during the incident, is now facing disciplinary action for allowing a suspect to come into harm's way while in custody.

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