Catholic anti-blasphemy law protestors detained in Pakistan
Fr Arnold Heredia, 60, and Alsam Martin, 44, were among about 50 protestors detained on Wednesday for taking part in an anti-blasphemy laws demonstration organised by the All Faiths Spiritual Movement in Karachi.
At least 600 people staged a peaceful march through the city to protest the country's controversial blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty on anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or its prophet Mohammed. Police intervened with tear gas and 50 persons were arrested.
Fr Heredia has served in human rights organisations for over two decades and he is respected in civil society.
The lower court ordered the physical remand of the detainees till tomorrow.
On Thursday the local Catholic Church and several civil associations demanded the immediate release of the protesters. The diocesan Justice and Peace Commission is preparing to make an appeal to the High Court.
In press release, the National Justice and Peace Commission (NJPC) expressed deep concern over the use of brutal force (baton charging and tear gas) and detention of peaceful marchers. "The act of the administration is gruesome and unjustified because the march was peaceful and the people were only exercising their constitutional rights of expression", the NJPC said.
"We reiterate our support for building a sectarianism and violence free Pakistan - the statement continued - however if the nation is to make any progress, it is imperative to do away with all discriminatory laws including blasphemy laws and separate electorates".