Four Pakistani Christians facing charges of blasphemy could be at risk of being killed extrajudicially, Fides news agency reports.
The Pakistanis were accused of blasphemy after printing posters for a funeral with the word "rasool" (Urdu for apostle), which is an attribute of the Prophet Muhammed.
The four accused, who include Protestant pastor Aftab Gill, will travel to court on 16 October for their trial unaccompanied, after the court refused to provide them an escort. This has sparked fears amongst their families that, in the transfer, they may be killed by radicals.
A month ago the court granted bail to the Muslim printmaker who had printed the posters, yet denied the same liberty to the four Christians.
"The judge was biased because the term 'rasool' is found in the Bible in Urdu and Christians had no blasphemous intention," said a spokesperson for NGO CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement).
Imitiaz Shakir, the Muslim lawyer who is defending the Christians, told Fides, "The trial is an exaggeration. The accusation is preposterous."
He said the accusations stemmed from a misunderstanding of Islam. "My religion does not allow me to endorse such injustice: these innocent people are suffering because of a misunderstanding of Islam," he said. "Not only Christians but all Pakistani citizens who believe in the rule of law and justice should speak out to defend these innocent people."