Friday, August 05, 2011

My day in court

This week was my fourth appearance in Her Majesty's courts. I have twice been a witness before magistrates and once pleaded my own civil case before a judge in chambers. But this was an immigration judge, no wig but using a Mac book before him on the bench.

AFAIK he had summoned three cases, two bail hearings and this appeal all for 10 a.m. knowing full well that he could not multitask. So our appeal started after a wait of over four hours.

I was the fourth and final witness on behalf of a young Pakistani man claiming asylum on the grounds that his life is in danger in his home country. Living in rural Pakistan he became friendly with the daughter of a local Muslim leader. This was shame on her family so a brother murdered her and this young man and his family had to flee their village. He came to England on a tourist visa and simply stayed after it expires. The Border Agency did not pursue him.

But one day he walked into a Christadelphian meeting. ( They are IMO Unitarians)These folk welcomed him. He joined with them and was persuaded he should do the decent think and confess he was an illegal immigrant. That led to immediate arrest and detention. A friend found out and asked if I could help as M {name withheld) claimed to be a member of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. An immigration tribunal had accepted that M was a Christian in England but saw no evidence to corroborate his claim to be a Presbyterian from Pakistan,

I phoned him and was given the number of a lady from the Christadelphians who was helping him. She put me onto M's lawyers. I was alarmed to hear they were Muslims representing a Christian fleeing persecution but I was in for a pleasant surprise. The lawyer representing M was brilliant in court passionately pleading how M's life was in danger if the judge sent him back home. The lawyer pulled no punches about how Christians are the poor in Pakistan and Muslims use the blasphemy law to slander them.

I had contacted my own solicitor who advised me to prepare a witness statement for the court which I did in response to seeing a transcript of the original hearing . I was able to show that a young man who could recite the Lord's Prayer in Urdu had to be a Christian as Pakistan bans Christian schools from teaching our prayers to Muslims. Also his failure to name officials in his church was no surprise as our members in London would not know the names of moderator, clerk and treasurer in the presbytery.

The judge accepted that M is a Presbyterian from Pakistan despite his inability to name the 10 commandments, I witnessed that I did not think English Christians would pass this test and I was bold enough to ask the judge if he was a Christian who could list the commandments. Immigration tribunals have no proper expertise IMO in assessing whether an asylum seeker's Christian profession is credible. But this judge was OK. He accepted that M is a Pakistani Presbyterian who now is part of a Christadelphiian eklesia (their term of choice). But today we await his decision as Io whether M is in such danger that asylum should be granted.

These tribunals are not like a court where the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Here ever word of the appellant is deemed to be a lie unless he proves it true. Newspaper articles translated from Urdu may be forged and need certification. Asylum seekers from Pakistan are not to be trusted as they are from a corrupt society.So M needs evidence as to the threat to his life. Well yesterday I managed to produce some. I received an email from the general secretary od his denomination in Lahore to confirm his story of a life in danger. This has gone to the lawyers and I trust, the judge. We await judgment today.

M is a frightened young man. I pray hat asylum will save his life from those who would murder him for befriending a Muslim woman. And I trust my blog will not be accused of contempt of court for reporting on that which s still sub judice. After all, the judge has a Macbook too.

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