LAHORE: A sessions court on Tuesday handed down death penalty to a Christian factory worker on blasphemy charges.

Asif Pervez Masih has been behind bars for the past seven years after his supervisor, Saeed Ahmad, lodged an FIR against him at the Green Town police in 2013 under Sections 295-B and 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 25-D of the Telegraph Act.

The factory supervisor accused Pervez Masih, a resident of Youhannabad, of sending him blasphemous text messages on his mobile phone. While denying the charges, the defence counsel argued that the complainant used to persuade the convict to embrace Islam.

He said the factory worker also had to quit the job due to endless pressure from his supervisor. He argued that the suspect was falsely implicated in the case with mala fide intention.

The defence counsel announced he would file an appeal against the conviction in the Lahore High Court.

Convict has been behind bars since 2013 for texting blasphemous messages to supervisor

Additional District and Sessions Judge Mansoor Ahmad Qureshi, who found the factory worker guilty of the offence under Section 295-C, sentenced him to death and imposed a fine of Rs50,000. The judge also sentenced him to three-year imprisonment under Section 25-D of the Telegraph Act.

Section 295-C reads as “whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine”.

Section 25-D of the Telegraph Act deals with the offence of causing annoyance, intimidation and harassment through telephone calls or messages.

According to the court order, the factory worker will first serve a three-year prison term for “misusing” his phone to send the derogatory text message. Then “he shall be hanged by his neck till his death”. Besides, he was also fined Rs50,000, adds Reuters.

His lawyer earlier told the court the supervisor made the accusation only after his client’s refusal to convert to Islam. The complainant’s counsel, however, denied this was the case.

Human rights groups say blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute minorities or even against Muslims to settle personal rivalries.

Earlier in July, a Pakistani American on a blasphemy trial in Peshawar was shot dead inside the courtroom by a teenager who was arrested as he told bystanders he killed him for the blasphemy.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2020

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