A court in Pakistan has sentenced 22-year-old Christian Noman Masih to death under the country’s harsh blasphemy laws. CSI is supporting his legal team, which has lodged an appeal.
The shock verdict by the court in Bahawalpur, Punjab province, was announced on May 30, several months after Masih’s cousin – also charged with blasphemy – was granted bail.
“I’m extremely disappointed by the conviction, because there was absolutely no case,” attorney Lazar Allah Rakha told Morning Star News. “There was no proof against Noman, and none of the witnesses produced by police could corroborate the blasphemy allegation against him.”
Noman Masih’s father, sanitation worker Asghar Masih, said the family was shocked by the verdict, but that “we are standing firm in our faith and looking to God for Noman’s freedom.”
Masih’s trial concluded in January, but the court repeatedly postponed the verdict on various pretexts, Rakha said.
Arrested in 2019
Noman Masih has spent almost four years in prison. He and his cousin, Sunny Waqas, were arrested within days of each other after police filed charges against them under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes.
The police report claimed that Waqas had printed blasphemous sketches of Islam’s prophet and was showing them to other people. Waqas allegedly told police that his cousin Noman Masih had shared the images with him. Both were then taken into detention.
Through its project partner in Pakistan, Anjum, CSI has been supporting the cousins’ legal teams and providing assistance to their families. A team from CSI visited the Waqas and Masih families in February of this year.
On January 17, the Bahawalpur judges granted bail to Sunny Waqas, but he was not freed immediately owing to difficulties in raising the huge bail bond of 4 million rupees ($ 13,994), Morning Star News reported.
Translation: “I am Azghar Masih, father of Noman who was charged under Article 295c (blasphemy). The case is now being handled by the district court. I am extremely grateful to CSI for their legal and financial help.”
Appeal to the high court
Lawyers for Noman Masih filed an appeal against his death sentence as soon as the written verdict was released.
In a video sent to CSI following his conviction, Masih’s father said the matter was now before the Lahore district court.
“I am extremely grateful to CSI for its legal and financial assistance,” Azghar Masih said.
CSI’s project partner Anjum is working on behalf of a number of blasphemy victims in Pakistan. On May 12, his efforts helped secure the release on bail of a Christian widow, Mussarat Bibi, and her Muslim colleague, Muhammad Sarmad.