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Pakistani Court Grants Bail To Christian Imprisoned As Teenager For Blasphemy

Pakistani Christian children sing at St. Patrick's Church ahead of Christmas celebrations in Karachi, Pakistan, in December 2018.

A Pakistani court has granted bail to a Christian man imprisoned for more than four years on alleged blasphemy offenses committed while a teenager.

The British Pakistani Christian Association, which took up Nabeel Masih’s legal defense, said a Lahore court on March 1 ordered the 20-year-old’s release on bail “based on no evidence that he had committed the crime.”

He is expected to be set free in three days.

Masih was 16 years old when he was arrested in 2016 after a lynch mob accused him of committing blasphemy by sharing a picture of the Kaaba in Mecca in a derogatory post on Facebook. The Kaaba is considered Islam's holiest site.

He was later sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 after sitting in pretrial detention for two years, becoming Pakistan's youngest blasphemy convict.

The British Pakistani Christian Association said they would continue to seek a full acquittal for Masih, who they reported was “devastated” wasting his youth away in prison.

“We reasoned that the quicker process of a bail application would enable Nabeel to be freed from his incarceration sooner, enabling him to tackle his suicidal depression and face the challenge of a long battle for exoneration in a position of strength,” the association said.

Insulting Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor of blasphemy can lead to lynching by mobs.

Nearly 80 people were known to be imprisoned in the country on blasphemy charges, half of whom face life in prison or the death penalty, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2020 annual report.