Pakistan: Christian escapes death sentence

 A Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for allegedly blaspheming the Islamic prophet Mohammed, was acquitted today by the country's Supreme Court. Arrested in 1996 and sentenced to death two years later, 26 year old Ayub Masih always strenuously denied blaspheming Islam. His denial was supported by local people who claimed that Ayub's accuser had an ulterior motive, namely obtaining possession of the Masih family's land. Last year the Multan Bench of Lahore High Court rejected Masih's appeal against sentence, only to see that decision reversed seven months later by the Pakistani Supreme Court. Despite his acquittal today, at the time of going to press, Ayub Masih still had not been released from Multan jail. There are concerns for his safety as even an accusation of blasphemy often means attack by Islamic extremists and there have already been at least two attempts on Masih's life. International Christian human rights group Jubilee has been involved with Masih's case since his arrest six years ago. The organisation's Researcher and Parliamentary Officer Wilfred Wong welcomed news of the acquittal and asked for prayers that the young man be released in safety. "We should also remember that there are still many Pakistani Christians imprisoned for blasphemy and two of them, Kingri Masih and Anwar Kenneth are currently facing the death penalty," he added. Jubilee Campaign is an interdenominational Christian human rights group which has worked with over 150 British Parliamentarians on human rights cases all over the world.

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