Pakistani Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam

A Pakistani court has sentenced a Christian man to death for sending “blasphemous” text messages to Muslim clerics, according to a report.

The Lahore High Court in Punjab province has revised the 2013 sentencing of the Christian man, Sajjad Masih, from life in prison to death, according to UCA News.

Masih, a Seventh-day Adventist, was accused of sending blasphemous text messages from a mobile phone to Muslim clerics and others in Gojra. The 2013 verdict included life imprisonment and a fine of 314,500 rupees, the equivalent of about $2,000.

Masih, a resident of Punjab’s Pakpattan district, was arrested in December 2011.

Police said Masih was engaged to a woman, Ruma Masih of Gojra town. But she contracted marriage with another Christian man in the United Kingdom. Masih is accused of using her SIM to send blasphemous messages to clerics as an act of revenge. 

Gojra has been a religiously sensitive area since massive attacks on Christians were triggered by reports of Quran desecration. In 2009, there were a series of riots targeting Christians in Gojra that resulted in eight deaths, including four women and a child. Muslim radicals reportedly set fire to Christian homes in the area. 

Police initially refrained from charging Masih under the blasphemy law but added the blasphemy charge to the complaint after pressure from Muslim clerics.  

Section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code permits the death penalty for those convicted of insulting Islam or its Prophet Muhammad. International advocates have long called on Pakistan to reform its penal code as it is often used to persecute religious minorities. 

In 2015, Masih’s brother and nephew were reportedly attacked and threatened by a group of people who had not been identified.