Two young Christians accused of blasphemy have been sentenced to life imprisonment by courts in Pakistan.
Archbishop Rufin Anthony, the new Archbishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi said that yesterday Qamar David, a Christian from Lahore, who has been in prison since 2006, received the verdict of the Court which sentenced him to life imprisonment for blasphemy. For three years, his family and his lawyer have been subject to threats and intimidation.
"The conviction was based only on statements and testimonies that were made up as a result of hatred and prejudice," said lawyer Parvez Choudry.
A second Christian, Imran Masih, 26, of Faisalabad, was sentenced to life in prison for blasphemy on 11 January after a neighbour accused him of burning a copy of the Koran.
Church commentators believe he was framed. It seems that when he was cleaning his shop, he wanted to get rid of some books written in Arabic (a language he does not understand) and asked a neighbour to check whether they could be religious. The neighbor assured him that they were not, so Imran Masih burned them. The same neighbour then made a complaint of blasphemy against him and he was charged with desecrating and incinerating a copy of the Koran.
"We are fighting for the withdrawal of this unjust law, along with many other activists of Pakistani society," Francis Mehboob Sada, Director of the Christian Study Centre in Rawalpindi, said.
"This law has been abused for far too long and Christians are victims. It should be noted that until 1986, there were no cases in Pakistan of blasphemy. From 1986 onwards - when General Zia-ul-Haq promulgated the law - the cases of blasphemy have appeared everywhere."
"The nation does not need this law. The National Commission for Human Rights and other civil society groups, including Muslims, openly say so. There are certainly fundamentalist Islamic groups that support it and the government is under their influence and pressure. But we will continue our struggle, hoping for good news."
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