Pakistani judge sentences Christian to death over blasphemy

Pakistani judge sentences Christian to death over blasphemy

Pakistani judge sentences Christian to death over blasphemy

Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries take part in a rally in support of blasphemy laws, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. (Credit: AP Photo.)

Defense lawyers in Pakistan claim a friend falsely accused a Christian convicted this week of blasphemy after he was angered over an alleged affair the man had with a Muslim woman. They plan on appealing the decision. Domestic and international human rights groups say Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often misused to settle personal scores and target minorities.

LAHORE, Pakistan — A defense lawyer says a Pakistani judge has sentenced a Christian man to death after finding him guilty of insulting Islam’s Prophet in the eastern Punjab province.

Riaz Anjum said Saturday the judge announced the verdict a day earlier in the city of Gujrat.

He identified the man as Nadeem James, 35, who was arrested last year after he sent a poem to his Muslim friend on WhatsApp.

Defense lawyers claim the friend falsely accused James after he was angered over an alleged affair James had with a Muslim woman. They plan on appealing the decision.

Last month, a Christian youth was arrested on blasphemy charges after he allegedly desecrated the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in eastern Punjab province.

Police chief Pervez Iqbal says the teen, about 18 years of age, was seized by a mob on Aug. 12 near the town of Wazirabad. The mob wanted to “punish” him for blasphemy.

Iqbal said the police acted swiftly and probably saved the youth from being lynched. He says the man is now awaiting trial.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam can be sentenced to death. No death sentence has been carried out, but several people accused of blasphemy have been killed by mobs.

Earlier this year, a student was lynched in northwestern Pakistan for blasphemy. The charge was later proven baseless. In 2015, Muslims beat to death a Christian couple and burned their bodies in a brick kiln for allegedly desecrating the Quran.

Domestic and international human rights groups say these laws are often misused to settle personal scores and target minorities.

Last month, the Islamabad High Court recommended that parliament review the blasphemy law and make changes that will prevent people from being falsely accused.

The Aug. 12 court ruling recommended parliament amend the law to require the same punishment — the death penalty — for those who falsely allege blasphemy as for those who actually commit blasphemy.

Crux staff contributed to this report.

 

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