Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemous WhatsApp message

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A Pakistani Christian hailing from Lahore has been handed a death sentence over a blasphemous text he sent over a messaging app. The man was arrested past year for allegedly making fun of Islam.

The man was charged with blasphemy in July past year after his friend Yasir Bashir complained to police that he had received a poem on the messaging app that was derogatory towards Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and other holy figures.

Quoting AFP, The Independent reported that in this case there had been a dispute between his client and the friend over a woman.

While not a single convict has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, there are now about 40 people are on death row or serving life sentences for the crime, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

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Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and insults against the Prophet Mohammad are punishable by death. His lawyer said that James will appeal to the higher court against the session's court verdict.

There have been at least 67 murders over unproven allegations of blasphemy since 1990, according to figures from a research centre and independent records kept by Reuters.

There was widespread outrage across Pakistan last April when student Mashal Khan was beaten to death at his university in Mardan following a dorm debate about religion, during which he was accused of sharing blasphemous material on social media. Besides the death sentence, Masih has been fined Rs 300,000, said a PTI report.

In 2014, a Christian couple was lynched in a kiln in the province of Punjab after being falsely accused of desecrating the Quran. Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by his bodyguard after he called for a reformation in the blasphemy laws.