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ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN: Christian man sentenced to death under blasphemy law

8 Apr 2014
[International Secretariat]
Region: ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN
Topic:

A violent mob attacked the Christian neighbourhood of Joseph Colony in Lahore in March 2013, after Savan Masih was arrested for 'blasphemy'.(C) Demotix
A violent mob attacked the Christian neighbourhood of Joseph Colony in Lahore in March 2013, after Savan Masih was arrested for 'blasphemy'.(C) Demotix

The Pakistani authorities should immediately release a Christian man sentenced to death under the country’s draconian blasphemy laws and quash his conviction, Amnesty International said today.

Savan Masih, a Christian road sweeper from Lahore, was today sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy and fined 200,000 rupees. He was arrested on 6 March 2013 after a friend accused him of making blasphemous remarks during an argument.

“This is a travesty of justice. There are serious concerns about the fairness of his trial, and an argument between two friends is not a basis for sending anyone to the gallows. Savan Masih must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

The vague formulation of the blasphemy laws, along with inadequate investigation by authorities and intimidation by mobs and some religious groups, has promoted vigilantism across Pakistan, especially in the northeastern state of Punjab.

Savan Masih’s arrest provoked a two-day riot in his neighbourhood in Lahore, known as Joseph Colony, when a 3,000-strong mob burned around 200 homes of Christians.

Police were warned of the impending attack but failed to take adequate measures to protect the community. Although dozens of the suspected perpetrators have been charged, nobody has yet been convicted.

Savan Masih’s harsh treatment under the law is in stark contrast to how others suspected of deliberately burning down people’s homes have not yet been brought to trial. It sheds light on discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities through blasphemy laws and Pakistan’s justice system in general.

All of the individuals responsible for the attacks on Christian homes must be brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.

Blasphemy is punishable by death under Pakistani law, even though it does not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes”, which are the only crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed under international law.

27 March 2014
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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