ASIA/PAKISTAN - Young Christian sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy through WhatsApp

Tuesday, 30 May 2023 blasphemy   religious minorities   human rights  

The Voice

Bahawalpur (Agenzia Fides) - Nouman Asghar, a 24-year-old Christian from the city of Bahawalpur, in Punjab, was sentenced to death for blasphemy today, May 30, by a court of first instance in Bahawalpur. The young man had been arrested in 2019 for violating article 295-c of the Penal Code, which punishes contempt for the Prophet Mohammed, due to an alleged blasphemy through WhatsApp. Messages containing blasphemous drawings of the Prophet Muhammad were found on the mobile phone of the young man and his friend Sunny Mushtaq -who was also arrested- in the WhatsApp chat. The trial against the young man concluded last January, but it took five months for the district judge of the Bahawalpur Magistrate Court to deliver the verdict, which was made public today, May 30.
According to lawyer Aneeqa Maria Anthony, from the NGO "The Voice", which deals with the legal defense of Asghar and Mushtaq, "the magistrate ignored all the procedures and dismissed all the evidence in favor of the accused. He only wanted to complete his 'sacred duty' to punish an alleged blasphemer. We expect the same fate for Sunny Mushtaq. They were arrested for a teenage game. Their families are suffering greatly. Our legal team at The Voice is doing everything necessary to grant them justice, helping their families and standing by their side in these dark and difficult times".
The young man's family denies the accusation. According to the lawyers, Mushtaq and Asghar received a blasphemous cartoon on their smartphones. However, that drawing was sent to them by Bilal Ahmad, a young Muslim, but the police took no action against Ahmad, who was the sender of the blasphemous image. "This is another example of the misuse of blasphemy laws", says attorney Anthony, calling on authorities to conduct a fair investigation of the case and announcing an appeal. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 30/5/2023)