(CN) – The 7th Circuit refused to reopen the asylum case of a Christian man who claims he was beaten and charged with blasphemy by an Islamic cleric in Pakistan, the world’s second largest Muslim nation.
Augustine Victor, his wife and two children applied for U.S. asylum in 2001 after an altercation at his niece’s wedding in Hyderabad, Pakistan.
The celebration was halted when a mullah, or Islamic cleric, and several followers arrived to complain that the music was interfering with evening prayer. Victor said he and his brother were beaten and threatened with charges of blasphemy, a capital offense in Pakistan.
Victor stayed briefly at his pastor’s home and then fled to the United States, where he sought protection from religious persecution.
The immigration judge determined that the wedding incident was isolated, and that Victor will not necessarily face persecution if sent back to Pakistan. The judge pointed out that Victor’s brother was still able to live in Pakistan, despite his involvement.
On appeal, Victor argued that the judge had failed to see the dispute as anything more than a personal altercation and had overlooked his likelihood of being tortured once in police custody.
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the judge’s decision, later rejecting Victor’s bid to have his case reopened.
The Chicago-based federal appeals court affirmed.
“In short, Victor’s motion to reconsider did not present a change of law or point out additional legal arguments that were erroneously overlooked by the BIA,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote. “Thus, the BIA did not abuse its discretion when it denied Victor’s motion to reconsider.
Christians make up about 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s population.