by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - A court of appeals in Pakistan has upheld the life sentence of Zafar Bhatti, a Christian man who was convicted and imprisoned in 2017 for supposedly sending insulting text messages Islam’s prophet Mohammed, Morning Star News reports. Pakistan is one of nine nations the US has designated a “Country of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom.
Bhatti, 56, denies the allegation against him, MSN reports. His attorney Tahir Bashir filed an appeal against conviction and sentence on the grounds that the prosecution had manipulated evidence, and that there was no proof to back the allegation.
Bashir told MSN that his client had received a life sentence instead of the mandatory death penalty under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law because the trial judge was not satisfied the prosecution had made their case. “The trial court judge had given the verdict under immense pressure, because the complainant was an office-bearer of the Islamist extremist outfit Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat,” Bashir said. “I believe the verdict delivered this time was also under pressure, because there’s no direct evidence against Bhatti.”
However, on June 22 an additional sessions judge in Rawalpindi District upheld the sentence, MSN reports. According to Bashir, the decision to uphold was taken even though the prosecution continued to be unable to connect Bhatti to the alleged crime.
While successive Pakistani governments have said blasphemy laws are abused, they have done little to protect citizens against such violations. Pakistan ranks 5 on the US Open Doors 2021 Watch List of countries in which Christians are persecuted.