Man Convicted For Blasphemy Acquitted By LHC After 7 Years

The Lahore High Court (LHC) has released a Christian man who was sentenced to death by a session court over blasphemy charges in March 2014.

A division bench, headed by Justice Syed Shehbaz Ali Rizvi, acquitted Sawan Masih, who had filed an appeal against the death sentence given by the trial court almost seven years ago. Mashin told the high court that the case was filed 35 hours after the incident which showed mala fide intent of the complainant, reported Express Tribune.

There were contradictions in the story of the FIR and the one narrated by the complainant before the trial court, he contended. He further said that the charges were framed against him by people who wanted to occupy the land of Joseph Colony. He asked the court to set aside his conviction and order his acquittal.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the court exonerated Masih, saying the prosecution has failed to prove his involvement in the blasphemy case.

Blasphemy accusations are highly inflammatory in deeply conservative Pakistan and have in the past sparked mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests.

Up to 80 people are known to be imprisoned in Pakistan on blasphemy charges — half of whom face life in prison or the death penalty — according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

At least 42 cases pertaining to blasphemy were registered across Pakistan in 30 days, said a report in Oct.

Most of those accused of blasphemy belonged to the Shia community, who have been booked under 295-A and 298 sections of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly ‘insulting the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’. Similarly, members of Ahmadiyya and Christian communities are also among the people accused of blasphemy.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) subsequently issued a statement saying that it was ‘gravely concerned’ at the recent surge in blasphemy cases being registered against sectarian and religious minorities, particularly the Shia community, and the potential for ensuing sectarian violence. Anecdotal evidence suggests that over 40 such cases may have been registered under the blasphemy laws in the last month alone.

In Aug this year, a security guard of a private company in Lahore allegedly gunned down his colleague over alleged blasphemy.

Both guards employed by Akhar Steel Mills had an argument on religion which resulted in the murder of Muhammad Azam, who was also hafiz-e-Quran, while he was sleeping. Following the murder, suspect Jamaat Ali, a resident of Shahdara, fled the scene.

An FIR was registered at Baghbanpura police station by the victim’s brother. As per the report, the incident took place on Aug 17 and the victim was buried the next day in his hometown Bahawalnagar.

The other security guards working at the factory on the condition of anonymity said that the argument between the two started after Azam wrote a piece on a religious issue. Jamaat had a problem with it and soon the debate between the two turned into a heated argument.

In July, a man was shot dead inside a Peshawar courtroom by a youth over blasphemy allegations that the deceased had been facing for two years. Similarly, a man working as a private guard killed his colleague over an argument concerning religion.


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