MULTAN, Jan 11: A court has jailed a prayer leader and his 20-year-old son for life on blasphemy charges in the rural heartland of the country, court officials said on Tuesday.
The case follows the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer by his bodyguard last week, after he called for reform of the blasphemy law under which a Christian woman was sentenced to death.
Mohammad Shafi, 45, and his son Mohammad Aslam, 20, were arrested in April last year for removing a poster outside their grocery shop promoting a religious event in a nearby village. The poster allegedly carried Quranic verses.
Judge Mohammad Ayub, heading an anti-terrorism court in Muzaffargarh, handed down a life sentence to the pair on Monday, his assistant Faisal Karim said by telephone.
According to the prosecution, the organisers of the event marking the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said the pair had “pulled the poster down, tore it and trampled it under their feet,” Mr Karim said.
“The judge sentenced them to life imprisonment on charges of blasphemy and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs200,000 each,” he said.
Defence counsel Arif Gurmani vowed to challenge the verdict in the high court because “it has been given in haste” and was the result of inter-sect rivalries, he said.
“Both are Muslims. The case is the result of differences between Deobandi and Barelvi sects of Sunni Muslims,” he said.
“Shafi is a practising Muslim, he is the imam of a mosque and he had recently returned from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia... I am defending them because I am convinced they are not guilty of blasphemy,” he said.
Nobody has been executed in Pakistan for blasphemy and those given the death penalty have so far had their sentences overturned or commuted on appeal.—AFP