Christian Blasphemy Suspect in Pakistan Jumps from Building to Escape Torture

Christian Blasphemy Suspect in Pakistan Jumps from Building to Escape Torture
Authorities in Pakistan are investigating reports that a Christian blasphemy suspect jumped from a four-story building and suffered serious injures to escape torture in custody.



Officials and doctors say Sajid Masih is recovering from his "fractured legs and jaw" in a hospital in Lahore where the incident took place on Friday.



Masih and one of his cousins were taken into custody for allegedly posting anti-Islam content on Facebook. They were being probed by cyber crime experts of the Federal Investigation Agency, or FIA, at its main office in the eastern Pakistani city when Masih jumped from the fourth floor of the building.



FIA officials denied charges the man was being tortured or abused, saying "no one had even touched" him. They insisted Masih panicked after "he was asked to unlock his cell phone" for screening.



In a video message circulated and shared via social media, Masih has accused several FIA officers of "severely" torturing him and snatching his cell phone in the process. He alleged the officers were coercing him and his cousin into sexually assaulting one another before he decided to jump from the window.



Dozens of Pakistani human rights groups and activists strongly condemned the incident in a joint statement Monday. They raised serious concerns over persistent misuse of Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, specifically against Christian and other religious minorities.



"The law enforcement authorities have not only failed in their duty to protect minorities, but have actively participated in violence against them," the statement said.



The groups called for an independent inquiry into the incident, rejecting the FIA's ongoing internal probe as unacceptable.


They also demanded that area police withdraw the case of attempted suicide against Masih. Activists say they suspect the police case was meant to cover up and protect FIA officers who made the Christian community member jump off the building.



Insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammad are extremely sensitive issues in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty, although no one has been executed under the blasphemy laws. Right groups say the laws are often misused or exploited to settle personal disputes.



In Monday's joint statement, activists have also demanded authorities take immediate steps for safety and protection of Masih and his relatives. Mere allegations of blasphemy have provoked mob lynchings of suspects or their targeted killings in Pakistan.



Last year,23-year-olduniversity student Mashal Khan was beaten to death byfellow students and others at the campus, accusing him of sharing blasphemous content on social media, charges investigations later determined were false. The incident happened in the northwestern city of Mardan, provoking a nationwide outcry against Khan's brutal killing.



Earlier in February, an anti-terrorism court sentenced one person to death and 30 others to jail terms, including life imprisonment, for their role in the lynching case.