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Pakistani Christian Sentenced To Death Over 'Blasphemous' Text Messages

A Pakistani court has sentenced a Christian man to death after convicting him of sending text messages containing "blasphemous" content.

Asif Pervaiz, 37, was sentenced on September 8 after a trial in the eastern city of Lahore that had been running since 2013.

He had been accused by the supervisor of the factory he was worked at of sending derogatory remarks about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad to him in text messages.

His lawyer said he would appeal the verdict with the Lahore High Court.

"He has already spent seven years [in custody]. Who knows how many more years he will have to wait till this is over?" Saiful Malook asked.

Pervaiz has denied the allegations, telling the court during his trial that his supervisor made the accusation only after he had refused to convert to Islam, Malook said.

The complainant's lawyer, Murtaza Chaudhry, denied Pervaiz's allegation.

The court order said Pervaiz would first serve a three-year prison term for "misusing" his phone to send the text messages in question before being “hanged by his neck till his death," according to Reuters. The man was also fined 50,000 Pakistani rupees ($300).

Insulting Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor of blasphemy can lead to lynching by mobs.

In July, a Pakistani-American man accused of committing blasphemy was shot dead inside a courtroom in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Nearly 80 people were known to be imprisoned in the country on blasphemy charges, half of whom face life in prison or the death penalty, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2020 annual report released in April.

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said police had filed blasphemy charges against at least 40 people over the last month.

Most of the charges were filed against Shi’as and related to speeches made at religious processions, it said.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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