A public prosecutor in Lahore has asked 42 Christians, facing trial in an anti-terrorism court over lynching of two men, that he ‘can guarantee their acquittal’ if they renounce their faith and ‘embrace Islam’, Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune reported today.
The 42 people, belonging to Pakistan’s minority Christian community, have been charged with lynching two men after March 2015's suicide blasts that targeted Sunday Mass in two churches in Youhanabad in Lahore. Many in Youhanabad's mostly Christian community believed the two men were involved in the planning of the bombings.
Joseph Franci, a rights activist, who is legally assisting the accused in the case, said that Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah was the one who made the accused the acquittal offer.
"He asks them if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case," Franci said.
Franci said that the accused remained silent and were dumbfounded. He further added that one of them, Irfan Masih, had spoken out and said that he was ready to be hanged if he had to convert.
Naseeb Anjum Advocate, counsel for some of the accused, told the newspaper that the public prosecutor’s offer was not new and added that he had also given a similar offer to some of the accused about six months back but they simply ignored it.
“The government should get rid of such elements that bring bad name to the state by such acts,” he said.
When questioned, public prosecutor Shah first denied it. However, when told that he was on video offering the acquittal-for-conversion deal, he acknowledged that he may have “offered them a choice”.