A lower court in Punjab sentenced two Christian brothers to death for “blasphemy” on 13 December. Qasir and Amoon Ayub have been in jail since 2014 and are accused of allegedly posting “disrespectful” material online in 2011.
The judge handed down his verdict at a closed hearing inside the jail due to security reasons. The brothers, who are both married, have been charged under all three of Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws – parts 295-A, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code. However, it is only the charge of “defiling the name” of Muhammad (295-C) which carries the death penalty. To date no one has been executed under the law, but a number of Christians and others have received death sentences.
The director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) which provides legal aid to Christians with support from Barnabas Fund, stated his belief that any Christians being tried in the lower courts for “blasphemy” so soon after the high profile acquittal of Aasia Bibi had little chance of anything but the death sentence, “After Asia Bibi’s acquittal it was expected that the court will not give us relief in any present blasphemy case especially lower courts ... I am afraid now Qasir and Amoon will have to wait years to get justice.”
The case is currently being prepared by CLAAS lawyers to be taken to a Lahore High Court Bench in the city of Rawalpindi next week.