Five Pakistani activists who went missing earlier this year after using social media to speak out against religious intolerance have been cleared of blasphemy charges.
The men vanished within days of each other in January, and four of them were later released, with some accusing their captors of torture.
No one claimed responsibility for the abduction, and Pakistan’s government and military, who they also criticised, denied being involved.
On Friday, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told the Islamabad High Court it could find no evidence against the five men.
The judge said that no innocent person should falsely accused of blasphemy.
One of the activists has since said Pakistan’s courts should investigate why the country’s media repeated the dangerous claims against him without proof.
Such accusations can spark vigilante killings and mob lynchings.
Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK said that while it was a very encouraging decision by the court, he was unsure whether it would help stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law which continues to grow, despite repeated calls from national and internarial human rights groups.
He added: “It is sad that despite the Pakistani government and all other law enforcing institutions recognising the blasphemy law’s misuse is widespread, and often innocent people are accused by their opponents to settle their personal scores, the Pakistani government has failed to stop its ongoing misuse.
“Once someone is accused their life is changed forever and threats to the accused person persist even if the person is found not guilty and released by the court. False accusations are levelled without knowing the consequences as the government has never questioned the false accusers. It is the government’s duty to provide protection and justice to its citizens.”
“The influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated.”...
- Pope Emeritus Benedict
“There is a very clear sense that people are nervous about the misuse of the blasphemy law, as a tool of politics or “…a mob thing […] ” he added, flanked by two Pakistani bishops. He earlier told reporters: “Equality under the law is important…”...
- Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
“The law for punishing blasphemy against the Prophet (sws) that is invoked in Pakistan has no foundation in the Qur'ān or Hadith.”...
- Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Renowned Quranic scholar & Islamic modernist theologist
“The problem is not so much the idea of a law against blasphemy, as about a law whose penalty is so severe and whose practice gives so much scope for allowing people to settle private scores.” ...
- Dr Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Canterbury