Pakistan: High Court changes life sentence to death penalty for Seventh Day Adventist accused of blasphemy

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) - The High Court in Lahore, Pakistan has changed a life sentence to the death penalty in the case of a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church charged with sending a blasphemous text message in 2011, Morning Star News (MSN) reports. Giving its decision on March 10, the High Court ruled in favor of Islamist group Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Forum, which argued that 36-year-old Sajjad Masih should be sentenced to death rather than life imprisonment for his transgression.

In 2013, a trial court sentenced Sajjad Masih from Gojra town, Punjab Province to life imprisonment for sending a Muslim a text message that was considered blasphemous. Masih was also ordered to pay a fine of US $2,010.

Although Masih has spent many years in prison already, the KNF filed an appeal against his sentence, arguing life imprisonment is insufficient for his punishment for his text. That the Lahore High Court acquiesced to the KNF demand has caused concerns that there will be a sharp increase in requests for the death penalty to be given in this type of case, MSN said.

In any event, Masih’s relatives have reportedly stated that Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, who ruled in favor of the death penalty, has now sent Masih’s appeal to a division bench for consideration. “Justice Shahzad has forwarded the appeal to a division bench to avoid pressure from KNF lawyers, and it’s most likely that this appeal, like other similar appeals, will continue to be delayed due to the fear factor,” a source told MSN.

Masih’s appeal against conviction has been pending with the Lahore High Court for seven years, MSN said.