A Lahore court has sentenced a Christian man to death on charges of blasphemy, in the latest case involving the enforcement of Pakistan’s strict religious laws.
Asif Pervaiz, a garment factory worker, had been accused by his supervisor of sending defamatory comments about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad to him via text message.
Making insulting remarks about the prophet carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan.
Asif Pervaiz, 37, has been in custody since 2013 when he was accused of having sent “blasphemous” text messages to a former supervisor at work, lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told Al Jazeera.
The court rejected his testimony wherein he denied the charges and sentenced him to death on Tuesday.
The court said Pervaiz would initially serve three years in prison for “misusing” his phone to send the text. Then, the court said “he shall be hanged by his neck till his death.”
He was also fined 50,000 Pakistani rupees ($300/€254).
“The complainant was a supervisor in a hosiery factory where Asif was working under him,” said Malook.
“He denied the allegations and said that this man was trying to get him to convert to Islam.”
Speaking in his own defence in court earlier in the trial, Pervaiz claimed the supervisor confronted him after he quit work at the factory, and when he refused to convert he was accused of having sent blasphemous text messages to the man, according to Aljazeera.
Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws prescribe a mandatory death penalty for the crime of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, and strict penalties for other infractions such as insulting Islam, the holy Quran or certain holy people.
There are currently at least 80 people in prison in Pakistan for the crime of “blasphemy”, with at least half of them facing life sentences or the death penalty, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Pakistan ranks fifth on Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.