Morning Star News, 19 March 2021
The Lahore High Court on March 10 changed a sentence of life imprisonment to the death penalty for a Christian convicted of sending a blasphemous text message in 2011.
The high court’s approval of an appeal by the KNF, or Movement for the Finality of the Prophethood, seeking the death penalty for such violations has raised fears of a surge in convictions under the controversial laws.
Relatives of Sajjad Masih, the convicted 36-year-old Christian, said Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan ruled in favour of the revised sentence and then sent Masih’s appeal to a division bench.
“Justice Shahzad has forwarded the appeal to a division bench to avoid pressure from KNF lawyers, and it’s most likely that this appeal, like other similar appeals, will continue to be delayed due to the fear factor.”
Masih’s appeal of the conviction has been pending with the Lahore High Court for the last seven years.
A large number of KNF lawyers swarmed the courtroom during a hearing on both Masih’s appeal and the KNF petition, an intimidation tactic designed to obtain convictions and harsh sentences.
“They told the judge that capital punishment was the only sentence for blaspheming against Islam’s prophet, and that Sajjad must be executed without delay,” said one source.