SHAHERYAR GILL, ACLJ
It’s a tragic case, but our team has just secured a significant step toward justice for the family of a Christian boy who was beaten to death by Pakistani police, ensuring that his persecutors would not be free to inflict more horror on the Christian community as this case continues.
Last week, the Organization for Legal Aid (OLA), the Pakistani office of our international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), celebrated a positive step in the case of Arslan Masih, originally reported nearly four months ago. The story was a tragic reminder that Christians in Pakistan are regularly targeted for no reason other than their religious convictions.
It began when Arslan, a Christian eighth-grader, got into a fight with a Muslim student who was directly related to a local police officer. Shortly thereafter, that officer and five others decided to attack Arslan at his school. The beating started inside the school before the officers dragged him outside and threw him in a police vehicle. There the beating continued. Unfortunately, the officers did not stop until Arslan was non-responsive. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Eventually, Arslan’s family recovered his body and blocked a road to protest against the police officers who initially refused to file charges. If they had not protested, it is unlikely an investigation would have ever been opened. The OLA represents Arslan’s family and is fighting to make sure the officers receive the proper punishment under the law.
In February, one of the defendants petitioned the court to be released on bail. The prosecutor and the OLA vigorously objected. Under Pakistani law, a defendant cannot receive bail when he stands accused of a crime that carries the potential of the death penalty. The law provides an exception, however, where the defendant is likely the victim of a false accusation, which is analyzed considering the evidence of his guilt. The prosecutor and the OLA counsel argued that this case does not fall within the exception because there is “tangible, convincing, and cogent evidence” of the defendant’s guilt. The court agreed and denied the Defendant bail.
The court’s holding is a small victory for Arslan’s family. Ultimately, Arslan’s story represents only a small fraction of persecution faced by Pakistani Christians each day. As we have reported before, objectors to police brutality, especially Christians, are regularly threatened and persecuted by the police. The threats warn that the police will retaliate against the victim’s family if charges are not dropped immediately.
We urge you to keep Arslan’s family in your prayers, as we continue working in Pakistan to defend persecuted Christians. We will inform you as the trial progresses.
Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Shaheryar Gill serves as Senior Litigation Counsel with the ACLJ in Virginia Beach, where he works on international religious freedom issues. He also oversees ECLJ’s affiliate office in Pakistan, which provides legal assistance to persecuted Christians. Shaheryar Gill has authored numerous country reports, detailing the situation of religious freedom, and has co-authored several ACLJ publications. He has represented clients from several countries in religious persecution cases. Shaheryar Gill has also served as an expert witness in asylum cases before the United Kingdom’s Immigration and Asylum Tribunal. Shaheryar Gill is a graduate of Handong International Law School in South Korea, where he served as Senior Editor of Joint Regent-Handong Journal of International Law. He received his LL.M. from Regent University School of Law. Shaheryar Gill has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Regent University School of Law, where he has taught Public International Law and guest lectured on National Security Law and Christian Foundations of Law. He is also a Fellow of the Centre for Study of Law & Public Policy at Oxford.