A Christian man has been sentenced to hang in Pakistan for receiving ‘blasphemous’ cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on his phone, reports say.
Noman Masih, who according to various sources was sentenced to death on May 19 or 22 by the Bahawalpur District Court in Punjab province on May 30.
He was arrested in 2019 for violating 295-c of the Penal Code, which punishes contempt for the Prophet Muhammad.
Agency Fidesthe Vatican news agency reported that Masih had obtained the images of a young Muslim man, against whom the police have taken no action.
Both Masih and a second man – his friend Sunny Mushtaq – were arrested after images received the images through the messenger app.
Mushtaq is expected to receive a similar punishment.
Noman Masih (pictured), who was sentenced to death by the court of Bahawalpur, Punjab province, on May 30, according to various sources
Fides reported that pictures of Mohammed’s drawings had been found on the phones of the two friends.
The trial of the two men ended in January, but it took five months for the verdict to be handed down by the district judge of the Bahawalpur Magistrate Court, which was made public on May 30.
Masih’s family has denied the allegation.
Masih’s lawyer, Lazar Allah Rakha, told the Morning Star News that he was “extremely disappointed by the sentencing because there was absolutely no case.”
“There was no evidence against Noman, and none of the witnesses produced by the police could corroborate the charge of blasphemy against him.”
He continued, “Despite so many contradictions in the case, I don’t understand why Bahawalpur Extra Sessions Judge Muhammad Hafeez Ur Rehman sentenced Noman instead of acquitting him. This is murder of justice.’
Aneeqa Maria Anthony – a lawyer for the NGO ‘The Voice’ – spoke to Fides and denounced the decision.
Anthony said that ‘the magistrate disregarded all proceedings and rejected all evidence in favor of the accused.
‘He [the judge] wanted only to fulfill his “sacred duty” to punish an alleged blasphemer. We expect the same fate for Sunny Mushtaq.
“They were arrested for playing with teenagers. Their families suffer greatly.
“Our legal team at The Voice is committed to serving them justice, helping their families and standing by them through these dark and difficult times.”
Pictured: A photo of a verdict which, according to Voice4Justice, shows that Noman Masih has been sentenced to death under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws
Anthony said the drawing was sent to the friends by Bilal Ahmad, a young Muslim.
However, the police took no action against Ahmad.
“This is another example of abuse of blasphemy laws,” the lawyer said, according to Fides.
He called on authorities to conduct a fair investigation and said his lawyers intended to appeal the verdict and go to the Lahore High Court.
Images received via WhatsApp are automatically downloaded to a person’s phone and can even be automatically backed up with the appropriate settings.
This means that any images Masih would have received would have been automatically saved to his phone whether he wanted them or not.
Pakistan has been harshly criticized for its extreme blasphemy laws, which critics say are used to persecute and intimidate members of religious minorities.
In 2020, an American man was shot and killed in a courtroom in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on charges of claiming to be a prophet.
In August 2021, an eight-year-old Hindu boy favored the death penalty after becoming the youngest person ever charged with blasphemy in the country.
In January 2022, a court sentenced a woman in Pakistan to death for ‘blasphemous’ messages sent via WhatsApp and Facebook
The boy was arrested on charges of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, or religious school, where religious books can be found.
And in January 2022, a court sentenced a woman in Pakistan to death for “blasphemous” messages sent via WhatsApp and Facebook.
The woman, 26-year-old Aneeqa Ateeq, said she believed the person who accused her deliberately engaged her in a religious discussion via social media so that he could gather “evidence” and “revenge” after she refused to be friends with to be him.
Nevertheless, the court found her guilty, sentenced her to 20 years in prison and ordered her to hang.