Pakistan: Christian faces possible execution over Whatsapp message

Opponents to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan demonstrate in 2010.Mohsin Raza

A Christian man in Pakistan has been charged under a blasphemy law which has a mandatory death penalty, for allegedly sending his Muslim friend a poem on the mobile phone app Whatsapp that was considered insulting towards the Prophet Muhammad.

Police are currently searching for the accused, Nadeem James, who has fled his home in fear of his life.

"Police have registered a case on blasphemy charges against Nadeem James and are searching for him as he has fled his home," a local official told AFP, according to The Express Tribune.

James, from Father Colony of Sraey Alamgir, reportedly had a minor dispute with Yasir Bashir, who has claimed that Nadeem defiled the name of the Prophet.

Messages from loudspeakers on local mosques have called on Christian homes to be burned unless Nadeem is produced into police custody.

According to reports, local police have raided Nadeem's house and arrested – and beaten – his sister, Samreen, and his sister-in-law, Najma.

Najma's 18-month-old daughter, Alisha, was with Najma when she was arrested, and will remain detained with her mother for the duration of her incarceration.

Nasir Saeed, director of the Christian charity CLAAS-UK, condemned the police: "It is very unfortunate that blasphemy cases continue to be registered against Christians over petty disputes without any investigation or concrete evidence," he said. "Several innocent people like Shama and Shahzad have been killed and burnt alive without being given them a chance to prove themselves innocent in a court of justice. Sadly, incidents of self-justice and mob killings continue to be rise, and people are not afraid of taking the law into their own hands because of the government's inadvertence and lack of interest in bringing the perpetrators to the justice, and its failure to think over bringing changes to the blasphemy law to stop its continuous misuse."