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World News

40 Christians acquitted of participating in riots sparked by church bombings

by Tola Mbakwe

Forty Christian men in Pakistan have been given the all clear after spending almost five years in prison for their alleged involvement in riots that were sparked by church bombings.

They were arrested in 2015 as police responded to riots in Youhanabad triggered by suicide bomb attacks on two churches in March 2015. Fifteen people were killed and more than 70 were injured.

The men were jailed after being accused of being involved in lynching two people in a district outside Lahore.

Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) said the men shouted "Alleluia, Praise God" as the anti-terrorism court in Lahore ordered their release.

Aid to the Church in Need
Fr Emmanuel ‘Mani’ Yousaf, National Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), Pakistan

Fr Emmanuel Yousaf, national director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, was in the court room and said emotion swept through the court when it was announced that there was insufficient evidence to prove the men guilty.

"What we have seen today is wonderful news for Pakistan," he said.

"Throughout Pakistan, people had been praying, every day praying that the court would rule in their favour. It is a big day for us all.

"The accused have been through a big, big trauma and now, thank God, come out the other side."

Fr Emmanuel said that two of the accused had died in jail amid reports of physical maltreatment and pressure to convert to Islam.

ACN funded the legal fees for the accused and sponsored schooling for the families of the men. The charity said it will continue to support the men and their families over the coming year.

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