Calls to repeal blasphemy laws after latest death sentence for Christian

(AP)
Christians in Pakistan risk being killed, attacked or falsely accused of blasphemy among other injustices

The Glasgow-based Global Minorities Alliance has called upon Pakistan to repeal its notorious blasphemy laws following Thursday's death sentence for a Christian street sweeper.

Sawan Masih, of Joseph Colony, Lahore, was sentenced to death for blasphemy following a row with a Muslim friend over property.

The sentence comes almost a year after riots swept through the predominantly Christian neighbourhood following the initial accusation.

The local mosque spread news of the allegation against Masih through its loudspeakers, triggering a rampage through the colony that saw around 100 Christian homes torched.  

Manassi Bernard, Chief Executive of Global Minorities Alliance, which advocates for the rights of minority communities the world over, said minorities in Pakistan were living in the "shadow of death" because of the widespread misuse of the blasphemy laws.

The GMA and other human rights groups say the blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores and justify land grabs. 

A blasphemy accusation carries serious repurcussions for the accused, with the risk of death even before reaching the courts if mobs decide to take the law into their own hands.

Police have been accused of inaction in the face of violence against Christians, and of failing to properly investigate blasphemy claims, which human rights organisations say are often false. 

"The Pakistan Government has an abysmal record of treating its citizens with harsh sentences when it comes to blasphemy, and provides no protection to the accused," said Bernard.

He is calling upon the international community to take action to prevent further injustices. 

"There are scores of cases where death sentences have been delivered and the accused has languished in prison or is tortured, poisoned, or killed," he said.

"Members of minorities live in the shadow of death with the increasing misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

"We call on the United Nations and the international community to take notice of these incidents, where members of minorities are implicated in crimes of 'blasphemy', and protect them from the misuse of these laws rather than let them languish in prisons for the crimes they never committed."

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