LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A court in Bahawalpur, Pakistan on Tuesday (May 30) handed the death penalty to a 22-year-old Christian on an unsubstantiated conviction under the country’s blasphemy laws, sources said.
Lazar Allah Rakha, attorney for Noman Masih, said that the sessions court announced its verdict at the New Central Jail Bahawalpur, in Punjab Province, though the prosecution failed to provide evidence of the blasphemy charge against him.
“I’m extremely disappointed by the conviction, because there was absolutely no case,” Rakha told Morning Star News. “There was no proof against Noman, and none of the witnesses produced by police could corroborate the blasphemy allegation against him.”
Masih’s trial concluded in January, but the court repeatedly postponed the verdict on various pretexts, Rakha said. Masih was convicted of blaspheming Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, which carries a mandatory death sentence under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes.
“Despite so many contradictions in the case, I’m at a loss to understand why Bahawalpur Additional Sessions Judge Muhammad Hafeez Ur Rehman sentenced Noman instead of acquitting him,” Rakha said. “This is murder of justice.”
The attorney said the court would issue its written verdict in a day or two, after which he would file an appeal against the conviction with the Bahawalpur Bench of the Lahore High Court within the mandatory seven-day period.
Regarding the status of a separate blasphemy case against Noman in Bahawalnagar, Rakha said the trial had concluded and the court was expected to announce a verdict in June.
Noman’s father, sanitation worker Asghar Masih, said the family was shocked by the verdict, but that “we are standing firm in our faith and looking to God for Noman’s freedom.”
He said that contrary to the police’s claim that officers had arrested Noman on July 1, 2019, his son was arrested in a late-night raid hours after the young man’s cousin, Sunny Waqas, was taken into custody 174 kilometers (108 miles) away by Bahawalnagar police on a blasphemy charge on June 29, 2019.
“The allegations in both First Information Reports (FIRs) are baseless,” Asghar Masih told Morning Star News. “Noman was sleeping in the house when he was arrested, but the police have alleged that he was in a park showing blasphemous images to 9-10 people at 3:30 a.m.”
The past four years have been extremely difficult for the family, both emotionally and financially, he said…continue reading
Source: Morning Star News