Pakistan: Christian facing life imprisonment for blasphemy

Published 16 July 2013  |  

Convicted of blasphemy, Sajjad Masih Gill, 28, a Christian resident of District Pakpatan-Punjab, has been fined USD $2000 and is now looking at a life prison sentence.

According to a report by Aftab Alexander Mughal, editor of Minorities Concern of Pakistan, Judge Mian Shahzad Raza handed down the unexpectedly heavy sentence on July 13.

Mughal said according to the Dawn newspaper, Gill had been charged with sending blasphemous text messages that defiled the name of Muhammad and insulted Islam, to clerics and a number of influential people.

Mughal said this is the first case in Pakistan of someone being accused and convicted of blasphemy by text messages.

Mughal said on Dec. 18 2011, one of the blasphemous texts was reportedly received by Malik Muhammad Tariq Saleem, a businessman living in Gojra, District Toba Tek Singh. The following day, Mughal said, Muhammad Tariq filed a complaint with area police.

Mughal said, "The police as usual without examining the source of sender (or) ... following the procedure ... registered a blasphemy case ... against Mr. Gill and his (then fiance) Ruma Ilyas ... "

Mughall said Ilyas had broken off her relationship with Gill and decided to marry an individual living in the UK.

"The convict had with him a mobile phone SIM (card) belonging to Ruma and from that SIM he had sent blasphemous texts to teach her a lesson,"Mughall said the newspaper reported.

Later, on the demand of Muslim scholars from Gojra, the name of Ruma Masih was also included in the First Information Report (FIR) as an additional accused party to the charge, Mughall said the Dawn newspaper reported. A warrant for her arrest and extradition from the UK was issued, but it was unsuccessful.

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