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Violent protests in Pakistan followed the acquittal of Asia Bibi. Violent protests in Pakistan followed the acquittal of Asia Bibi.   (ANSA)

Two Pakistani Christians sentenced to death for blasphemy

Two brothers, Qaisar and Amoon Ayub have been in Jhelum Jail since 2015. Their death sentence was delivered in prison on Dec. 13 for security reasons.

By Robin Gomes

Two Christians have been sentenced to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges, the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) said on December 14.  Qaisar and Amoon Ayub, from Lahore, were arrested in 2015 after one of the two was accused of posting offensive material against Islam on their website.

Qaisar and his wife Amina have three children, whilst his brother, Amoon is married to Huma, a teacher at Lahore Cathedral School. 

The allegations surfaced in 2011 when they were accused of posting disrespectful material on their website; however, the accused say that their website has been inactive since 2009.

The two brothers have been held in Jhelum District Jail since their arrest. Their case was heard on December 13 inside the jail due to security reasons.   Additional Session judge Javed Iqbal Bosal found them guilty and sentenced them to death.    

CLAAS, an interdenominational organization dedicated to the victims of religious intolerance, has been representing the accused and now plans to appeal the sentence before the Lahore High Court.

Blasphemy a volatile issue in Pakistan

According to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan’s Penal Code, insulting the Prophet Muhammad is a crime punishable by death, while offending the ‎ Koran, Islam's holy book, incurs life imprisonment. 

The laws remain an extremely sensitive issue in ‎the predominantly Muslim nation and they have ‎drawn intense criticism even within the country. 

Blasphemy charges tend to trigger violent reaction among Islamic radicals, who interfere with the proper operations of the court system and threaten judges. 

Unfortunately, “because of threats from hardliners lower courts pass their responsibility to the higher court and then it takes years to prove the accused innocent,” said CLAAS-UK director Nasir Saeed. “We have seen this in the recent case of Asia Bibi who was similarly convicted by the lower court and it took her years to reach to the Supreme Court to get justice. I am afraid now Qaisir and Amoon will have to wait years to get justice," Saeed said.

Asia Bibi

The death sentence of Qaisar and Amoon Ayub comes close on the heels of the acquittal of Asia Bibi, perhaps Pakistan’s most famous blasphemy case.  The Catholic woman was arrested and imprisoned in June 2009 on allegation of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which she and her family have always denied. In 2010, she was sentenced to death.

She was acquitted by Pakistan's Supreme Court on October 31 and ordered free, but she remains under high security in an undisclosed location in the country for fear of extremists who want her hanged. 

Islamists have also threatened the Supreme Court judges who declared Asia Bibi innocent.  Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook has fled Pakistan and sought asylum in the Netherlands.  (Source: AsiaNews/agencies)  

15 December 2018, 12:00