Supreme Court grants ‘historic bail’ to Christian accused of blasphemy

    The Supreme Court of Pakistan has granted bail to Nadeem Samson, a Christian accused of posting blasphemous content on Facebook in 2017.

    “This is a very special judgement from the Supreme Court… the first time in the Pakistan judicial history,” lawyer Saif Ul Malook said during a Jan. 6  video call with rights outfit Jubilee Campaign USA. He added that this judgement will act as a precedent to help other persons accused of blasphemy.

    Courts in Pakistan regularly dismiss bail appeals for blasphemy accused in a pro forma fashion, specifically when the charges are made with reference to Section 295C – where the punishment for blasphemy is death, a “non-bailable offence”. But there are instances where “non-bailable” offences can be granted bail, as referenced in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 Section 497.

    This “bail for non-bailable offences” is often granted for several other offences, including accusations of murder, but when it comes to blasphemy, judges dismiss the appeals. This has been the case for Nadeem Samson and several other blasphemy accused.

    Advocate Saif cites this discrimination to the religious prejudice judges hold when looking at blasphemy cases, they do not look at the facts. According to police, Nadeem shared blasphemous content on Facebook that insulted Islam and its prophet.

    READ MORE: Misuse of blasphemy law, forced conversions to be curbed, govt assures church leaders

    The brother of Nadeem Samsom, Shaqeel, shared his gratitude for the release of his brother. “You are an angel  [Saif Al Malouk] – because angels work in human beings. You saved my brother and you saved Asia Bibi.”

    During the bail hearing on Jan 5, Saif Ul Malook exposed this bias and appealed to the judges to view the case as a judge and not let religious sentiments cloud their judgement. He asked how is it possible that an accused is forced to rot in prison for four years because they (the courts) are not willing to give him a fair trial.

    He referenced the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 Section 497, which states that if an individual has not been formally charged and the trial has not been concluded within two years and the delay was not due to the accused, they should be granted bail.

    Saif Ul Malook credits the Supreme Court judge, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, for being “only a judge” and not letting religious bias deter from exercising justice. “I give 90% credit to the philosopher judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” he says. He views Justice Shah as an advocate and ally who will, “bring new judgements and new standards of evidence in the times to come,” and counter the rampant discrimination and bias that currently sullies the chances of justice for victims of blasphemy charges.

    READ MORE: LHC acquits blasphemy convict after 11 years

    The granted bail petition, however, is only one victory in an arduous journey to justice for Nadeem Samson.

    “His case is still pending in the Lahore district court and could take years to be finalised. In addition, blasphemy charges, even when lacking evidence, place the accused at substantial risk. When Nadeem Samson is going to court he can be killed anytime,” the lawyer warned.

    In July 2020, a former member of the Ahmadi community Tahir Ahmed Naseem was shot dead inside a courtroom in the northwestern city of Peshawar. He was facing blasphemy charges and was reported to be suffering from mental illness.


    In another unprecedented decision last year, a trial court judge in Faisalabad granted bail to two Christian nurses charged with “defiling the holy Quran”.

    Nurse Mariam Lal and student nurse Nawish Arooj, arrested on April 9, 2021, received bail from a sessions court on Sept. 23, 2021, attorney Atif Jamil Paggan said.

    They were charged in Faisalabad under Section 295-B of the blasphemy law after a mob on April 9 strode into their workplace, Faisalabad Civil Hospital, and demanded “death to blasphemers”. Conviction for defiling the holy book is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine.


    False accusations of blasphemy are common in Pakistan, often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. The highly inflammatory accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests.

    READ MORE: Sialkot mob lynches Sri Lankan national over ‘blasphemy’

    The government’s failure to curb the misuse of the blasphemy laws is emboldening false accusers, church leaders say.

    On Jan 4, 2022, while addressing a press conference in Lahore, the senior bishops of the Anglican Church of Pakistan demanded “additions” to the blasphemy statutes to penalize false accusers.

    “There is no deterrence against false accusations of blasphemy. We understand the sensitivity of the issue which is why we are not seeking a repeal of the laws but we do want the State to punish false accusers of blasphemy instead of putting the onus of prosecution on those falsely accused of the crime,” said Bishop Dr Azad Marshall, the moderator/president of the Church of Pakistan.

    He added that the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Islamabad High Court had also recommended giving false accusers the same punishment as those prescribed for blasphemy accused but the government had taken no action yet.

    Bishop Marshall also reiterated his demand for setting up a special task force comprising army officials for investigation of blasphemy incidents.

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