Christian Man Sentenced to Death in Pakistan Over WhatsApp ‘Blasphemy’
A Christian man has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, his lawyer has said.
Nadeem James, 35, was said to have committed blasphemy in a poem he sent to a Muslim friend on the WhatsApp messaging service.
Independent reports that he was arrested in July last year after going on the run following the accusation of blasphemy, which human rights groups say is sometimes used in the country to settle personal scores and target minorities.
Defence lawyer Anjum Wakeel told the AFP news agency that in this case there had been a dispute between his client and the friend over a woman.
“James was handed a death sentence by the court on Thursday on blasphemy charges,” he said.
“My client will appeal the sentence in the high court as he has been framed by his friend, who was annoyed over James’ affair with a Muslim girl.”
The verdict was passed by a court in the town of Gujrat in eastern Pakistan.
There was widespread outrage across Pakistan last April when student Mashal Khan was beaten to death at his university in Mardan following a dorm debate about religion, during which he was accused of sharing blasphemous material on social media.
Police arrested over 20 students and some faculty members in connection with the killing.
Since then, parliament has considered adding safeguards to the blasphemy laws, a groundbreaking move given the emotive nature of the issue.
There have been at least 67 murders over unproven allegations of blasphemy since 1990, according to figures from a research centre and independent records kept by Reuters.
In 2015, Muslims beat to death a Christian couple and burned their bodies in a brick kiln for allegedly desecrating the Quran.
And in 2011, a bodyguard assassinated Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer after he called for the blasphemy laws to be reformed.
Mr Taseer’s killer, who was executed last year, has been hailed as a martyr by religious hardliners.
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