Christian Teen Charged With Blasphemy after Refusing To Convert To Islam Wins Bail

Ashbeel Ghauri (2nd from right) with his lawyers and parents on March 14, 2024. | Christian Daily International-Morning Star News
Ashbeel Ghauri (2nd from right) with his lawyers and parents on March 14, 2024. | Christian Daily International-Morning Star News

A Pakistani Christian teen charged with blasphemy and facing up to 10 years in prison, was on Thursday, released on bail, saying his faith sustained him during a week of solitary confinement.

18-year-old Ashbeel Ghauri was arrested on March 6 after a former Muslim classmate, Sheraz Gulistan, accused him of blaspheming Islam in a WhatsApp discussion group in January. He was charged under Section 295-A of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes pertaining to hurting religious sentiments, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine or both.

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“I had no idea then that defending my Christian faith against constant intimidation by my former classmates to convert to Islam would be used to persecute me,” Ghauri told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News after his release from Attock District Jail on Thursday evening. “I did not say anything derogatory about the Islamic faith during the discussions, but I did ask questions which obviously antagonized the Muslim participants.”

“I love Jesus Christ, and I take pride in my Christian faith, but I did not like it when Sheraz and others would raise questions on Christ’s life,” he said. “My interest in studying different religions, including Islam, has given me some knowledge to respond to criticism against Christianity with academic references,” Ghauri said, adding that most of his time in jail was spent studying the Bible and other religious literature and praying.

Ghauri said he was taken to Attock jail on judicial remand on March 7. Police did not harm him while he was in their custody for a night.

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“Except for one constable, the attitudes of all the other policemen were fine,” Ghauri said. “When I was being taken to the magistrate’s court for seeking my judicial remand, that constable locked the handcuff on my wrist so tightly that it hurt me. When I complained about the pain, the constable said he would have tightened the handcuff even more because of the allegation against me.”

Prison officials did not keep him in the barrack where all other blasphemy suspects are housed, he said.

“I was locked up in a small room all alone. My time there was spent praying and reading the Bible, and I fasted for three days. One particular verse that kept me strong was God’s promise to Joshua where he says, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Joshua 1:5).

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