Blasphemy: Christian sentenced to death in Joseph Colony case

Published March 27, 2014
Mobs rampaged through the Joseph Colony neighbourhood of Lahore in March last year after the allegations against Sawan Masih emerged. -AFP/File Photo
Mobs rampaged through the Joseph Colony neighbourhood of Lahore in March last year after the allegations against Sawan Masih emerged. -AFP/File Photo

LAHORE: A court in Pakistan sentenced a Christian man to death for blasphemy Thursday, his lawyer said, over an incident that triggered a riot in the country's second-largest city.

Sawan Masih was convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) during the course of a conversation with a Muslim friend in the Joseph Colony neighbourhood of Lahore in March last year.

More than 3,000 Muslims rampaged through Joseph Colony, torching some 100 Christian homes, after the allegations against Masih emerged.

Naeem Shakir, one of Masih's lawyers, told AFP: “The judge has announced the death sentence for Sawan Masih.

“We will appeal the sentence in the Lahore High Court.”Verdict and sentence were announced inside the jail where Masih was held, Shakir said.

The country has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by court martial.

Pakistan has extremely strict laws against defaming Islam, including the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle personal disputes.

Masih has maintained his innocence and argued the real reason for the blasphemy allegation was a property dispute between him and his friend.

No one was killed in the rampage through Joseph Colony last year but the incident highlighted the sensitivity of blasphemy in Pakistan.

Some 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslim, and even unproven allegations can trigger a violent public response.

Earlier this month an angry mob set fire to a Hindu temple in the southern city of Larkana over the alleged desecration of a Quran.

A recent report from a US government advisory panel said Pakistan used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world, listing 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for insulting Islam.

In January an elderly Briton was sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy, though his lawyers said the court had failed to consider “overwhelming” evidence of his mental illness.

Opinion

Editorial

Another U-turn?
Updated 07 Oct, 2022

Another U-turn?

The PTI’s decision to take back its resignations could herald a twist in the tussle playing out in Islamabad.
Renewed TTP threat
07 Oct, 2022

Renewed TTP threat

THE interior ministry’s call for ‘extreme vigilance’ and instructions to security forces to conduct ‘search...
Women’s gala in GB
07 Oct, 2022

Women’s gala in GB

REGRESSIVE forces, once again, nearly had their way — this time in Gilgit-Baltistan. A three-day sporting gala for...
‘Draconian’ law
06 Oct, 2022

‘Draconian’ law

THE debate over what it means to be ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’ has reignited after the incumbent Supreme Court ...
Welcome clarity
Updated 06 Oct, 2022

Welcome clarity

There needs to be consensus amongst all political actors that matters of governance should be the exclusive domain of civilians.
Car purchases
06 Oct, 2022

Car purchases

IF we are in the market to buy a new car, we end up paying a significantly large amount as premium over the sticker...