MUMBAI, India – Leading Catholic human rights advocates in Pakistan are calling for authorities to take action after a Christian prisoner died in jail due to a lack of proper medical attention.
Dominican Father James Channan, the Director of Peace Center Lahore, told Crux the death of Indrias Masih was the “result of negligence” by the authorities in the jail.
Masih was one of 42 people arrested as suspects in the lynching of two Muslims in the aftermath of a March 15, 2015, terrorist bombing of Christ Church, a Catholic church in Lahore’s predominantly Christian Youhanabad neighborhood.
The two Muslims were suspected by a mob of having been involved in the attack, a charge their families and the authorities deny.
Christian leaders in the city say Masih himself was innocent of being involved in the revenge attack.
He died on August 13 of gastrointestinal tuberculosis. Channan called his death “sad and shocking.”
The National Commission for Justice and Peace, an office of the Pakistani bishops’ conference, said the family and community are demanding the government treat this incident as a murder case.
“His untimely death was a result of negligence on the part of jail authorities, poor prison conditions, consumption of unclean water and food. His deteriorating health was continuously neglected by the jail authorities. According to the family, Indrias was a healthy person and never had any major ailments before his arrest,” the NCJP said in a statement.
Bishop Joseph Arshad, the Chairperson of the NCJP, said police sensitivity should be made a priority, adding the police are often inconsiderate towards the sick and needy.
“Jail conditions and insensitivity of the police towards the prisoners needs to be evaluated by the honorable courts,” the bishop said.
While he attended a hearing on June 2, friends pleaded with the court to take note of Masih’s worsening health, but the judge only referred him to the medical facilities in the jail, and refused to send him to a proper hospital.
Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, the National Director of the NCJP, said the court should show mercy on the prisoners.
“They’ve been suffering in jails for a very long time,” he said, adding that many of the accused face difficulty sustaining their marriages, and their children suffer due to the absence of their fathers.
The NCJP appealed to the government to ensure speedy justice for those still in jail awaiting trial for the Youhanabad lynching, and to grant bail on compassionate grounds to the prisoners, given the mistreatment they have received.
Masih, 33, was married with three children and the sole earner for the family before his arrest in 2015.
Channan called on the government to compensate his widow and pay for the education of his children.
“I appeal to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take action against the superintendent of the jail and other persons responsible for his death, murder,” Channan told Crux. “I also appeal to the human rights organizations in the country to take notice of this ‘murder’ and help to provide justice to the grieving family.”