-- ZENIT.org News Agency
As Trial Nears for Murder of Shahbaz Batti, Brother Says He Won't Flee Pakistan
Asks for Prayers Amid Continuing Death Threats for Himself, Family, Witnesses
ROME, February 11, 2014 (Zenit.org) - A Christian human rights campaigner who left Pakistan has described how he received death threats while pursuing justice for his murdered brother.
Dr. Paul Bhatti gave an impassioned plea on behalf of suffering minority groups in Pakistan in interviews with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, after news broke that he had left his country for Italy.
Denying that he had fled the country for his own safety, the former Pakistani minister of national harmony and minority affairs said his visit toItaly was pre-arranged and added that he would soon return to his country to continue his struggle on behalf of oppressed minorities.
In a statement sent today to ACN, Dr Paul Bhatti said: "We have received threats, and we are facing them but I can't leave alone my other [family] members who are under threat.
"We need your support and prayers to protect [the] weak and marginalized part of our community."
Close family friends of Dr Bhatti have told ACN that he and a number of others had received death threats from militant groups opposed to the planned trial of those accused of murdering Dr Bhatti's younger brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was Pakistan's federal minister for minority affairs.
The friends, who asked not to be named for security reasons, confirmed that the threats were very similar to those sent to Shahbaz Bhatti before his assassination on 2nd March 2011 and could not be classed as "non-serious".
Threats have also been received by members of the All-Pakistan Minorities' Alliance (APMA), of which Shahbaz Bhatti was chairman.
Speaking yesterday to ACN, one of the Bhattis' friends, a member of APMA, said: "Dr Paul Bhatti was not receiving adequate security. He was expecting to get round-the-clock security.
"Others connected with the Bhattis, including APMA members and lawyers, are in hiding. They are under threat. The situation is tense at the moment."
"The threats are to be taken seriously because [they] are similar to the ones Shahbaz received and clearly involve organisations linked to the Taliban and other militant organisations."
The APMA member made it clear the threats were directly connected to the case involving those accused of murdering Shahbaz Bhatti, adding that a trial hearing had been due on Saturday 8th February.
The source close to the Bhattis said: "Prior to [8th February], threatening letters were sent to the offices of the prosecuting lawyer acting on behalf of the family.
"Threats were made against eye-witnesses [in the Shahbaz Bhatti murder case].
"We were advised to stop pursuing this case otherwise we would face the same consequences as Shahbaz."
The APMA member added: "The rule of law has to prevail and it is so unfair that somebody gets murdered and the culprits do not get justice.
"We lose somebody so precious and all we want is that those who committed the crime are brought to justice."
Dr Bhatti told ACN he will be returning to Pakistan for the third anniversary of the death of his brother, Shahbaz, on 6th March.
He said: "Running away now would mean an end to Shahbaz's mission, a cause which he dedicated his entire life to and for which he was killed."
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)
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