Life in Prison
“Thank you for always being there!” – these are Patras Masih’s own words. On February 19, 2018, supporters of the Islamic extremist party TLP blocked a main artery of Lahore, capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, demanding that Patras Masih, a barely 16-year-old Christian, be publicly hanged: He allegedly posted a disrespectful picture of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, on a social network at around 10 p.m. on Jan. 16, 2018. A mob went to the Christian settlement where Patras Masih lived, entered the houses and threw cans filled with gasoline to burn the colony of about 800 houses. The police did not bring the situation under control, only the deployment of army forces was able to end the riot. Patras Masih was arrested, and two extremists filed charges of blasphemy. The next day, Patras Masih’s family turned to Christian lawyer Aneeqa Maria Anthony of the human rights organization “The Voice Society” for protection and assistance. First, the family, consisting of the parents, two sons, two daughters, a son-in-law and a grandchild, was placed in a “safehouse” – an apartment rented for this purpose, usually in an inconspicuous apartment block in another part of town. Then “The Voice Society” took up its own investigations. They revealed that Patras Masih had sent his cell phone for repair three months earlier and had not yet received it back. Accordingly, he could not have posted the offending photo.
On February 22, 2018, Patras was taken to the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA), which is responsible for cybercrime. There, officials threatened not to leave any of his relatives alive. They summoned Patras’s cousin Sajiid for the detention hearing. Thus, they put even more pressure on Patras and his family. Investigators tried to force Sajiid to perform oral sex on his cousin, having previously used torture methods to make him curse himself and Patras Masih. Sajiid did not want to endure further humiliation, jumped from the fourth floor of the building and seriously injured himself. Patras was remanded in custody. In order for the court to sentence him under adult criminal law and thus even more severely, the police raised Patras’ age by three years, despite all documents.
IGFM has been involved in this case from the beginning. Since our first report in March 2018, we have provided financial assistance to our partner organization, The Voice Society, so that Patras Masih’s family could live and be cared for in safety. We have financially supported attorney Aneeqa Maria Anthony in all her efforts, in her office’s research, and for the hiring of additional attorneys.
After seven rejected bail applications, on the eighth application, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered Patras Masih to be released from custody after posting bail on August 24, 2022. On September 2, 2022 – that is, after four and a half years in custody – Patras Masih was able to leave prison.
Patras is free, but not (yet) acquitted. The trial continues. TLP supporters will be looking for him to carry out their sentence – the death penalty. There is no escape alternative for Patras in Pakistan. Just getting him out of prison without causing a stir had to be carefully planned. Currently, Patras is being hidden and cared for by “The Voice Society.” This is a high-risk operation for the organization. We hope to have found a solution within the next two months. For the further care of Patras and his family, the procurement of official papers for Patras, a permanent escort for his protection, the transfer abroad and a safe place to stay, we calculate costs of at least 5,000 euros. Please help to give this young man a future in safety.