Pakistani Christian Gets Death Penalty for Blasphemy


26-year-old Pakistani Christian Sawan Masih was sentenced to death on March 27 for blasphemy. He was convicted in March 2013 for using derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad while arguing with a Muslim friend.

After the allegations surfaced, an estimated 3,000 Muslims attacked Joseph Colony, a Christian locality in Lahore, and torched at least 100 houses in the area.  Apart from that, two churches and dozens of bibles were destroyed during the riots that lasted over a few days. Even though no one was killed in the rampage, the incident highlighted the country’s sensitivity towards blasphemy.

According to Masih’s lawyer, the judge announced the verdict on the jail premises amid fears that Masih would be lynched if he were seen in public.

Masih is the father of three and he has maintained that he is innocent through the year-long trial. According to him, the real reason for such an allegation was a property dispute between him and his friend.

“My son is innocent. We are not being treated fairly,” said his father Chapman Masih.

A de facto moratorium on the death penalty will ensure Masih does not face the gallows immediately. Since 1990, hundreds of Christians have been persecuted for insulting the Koran or blaspheming against the prophet. Most of the accused have been sentenced to death by lower courts in the country but some have been overturned because of lack of evidence. Masih currently has only 30 days to make an appeal to the Lahore High Court.

Pakistan has very stringent blasphemy laws and critics argue that people frequently misuse the country’s laws to settle personal scores. According to a recent report by a US government advisory panel, Pakistan uses blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world. Currently, there are 14 people on death row and 19 people serving life sentences on those grounds.

A number of cases in recent times, including the arrest of a Christian girl Rimsha Masih as well the conviction of British man Muhammad Asghar on blasphemy charges, have prompted international concern over the existing laws in Pakistan.

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