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Joseph Colony suspects: Bail cancellation plea rejected

A bench of the Lahore High Court on Wednesday dismissed the Punjab govt’s appeal seeking the cancellation of bails to 83 suspects accused of torching more than 200 houses in Joseph Colony.

The bench comprising Justice Shahid Hameed Dar and Justice Ali Baqar Najafi on Tuesday had reserved judgment after hearing arguments from the defence and prosecution.

The Prosecution Department had filed the appeal stating that a trial court had released the suspects without considering the gravity of the situation. It said hundreds of Christians had lost their houses because of the suspects. Their actions had marred the image of Pakistan as well. The department urged the court to withdraw the bails.

The counsel for the suspects said the police had only put on a show by arresting the suspects…they had no evidence against them.

On March 2013, Badami Bagh police, on a complaint by Inspector Hafiz Abdul Majid, had registered an FIR against 83 nominated suspects and thousands of unidentified persons. The suspects are accused of setting alight houses in Joseph Colony in the aftermath of an alleged blasphemy incident.

The FIR was registered under Sections 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy houses), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons), 149 (members of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common objectives), 397 (robbery, with attempt to cause death), 353 (assault to deter public servants from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servants in discharge of public functions), 324 (attempt to commit premeditated murder), and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

All suspects were granted bail by the Anti Terrorism Courts and their trials are still pending.

On March 27, 2014, an additional district and sessions judge sentenced Sawan Masih to death for committing blasphemy and fined him Rs2 million.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2014.

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