A Christian man has been sentenced to be hanged in Pakistan for receiving ‘blasphemous’ cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on his phone, reports say.
Noman Masih, who according to different sources in either 19 or 22, was sentenced to death by the Court of Bahawalpur, in the Punjab province on May 30.
He was arrested in 2019 for violating 295-c of the Penal Code, which punishes contempt shown towards the Prophet Mohammed.
Agenzia Fides, the Vatican’s news agency, reported that Masih was sent the images by a young Muslim man, who police have taken no action against.
Both Masih and a second man – his friend friend Sunny Mushtaq – were arrested after images receiving the images over the messenger app. It is expected that Mushtaq will be handed a similar punishment.
Noman Masih (pictured), who according to different sources in either 19 or 22, was sentenced to death by the Court of Bahawalpur, in the Punjab province on May 30
Fides reported that photographs of drawings of Mohammed were found on the phones belonging to the two friends.
The trial against the two men ended in January, but it has taken five months for the sentence to be handed down by the district judge of the Bahawalpur Magistrate Court, which was made public on May 30.
Masih’s family has denied the accusation.
Lazar Allah Rakha, attorney for Masih, told Morning Star News that he was ‘extremely disappointed by the conviction, because there was absolutely no case.’
‘There was no proof against Noman, and none of the witnesses produced by police could corroborate the blasphemy allegation against him.’
He continued: ‘Despite so many contradictions in the case, I’m at a loss to understand why Bahawalpur Additional Sessions Judge Muhammad Hafeez Ur Rehman sentenced Noman instead of acquitting him. This is murder of justice.’
Speaking to Fides, Aneeqa Maria Anthony – an attorney from the NGO ‘The Voice’ – slammed the decision.
Anthony said ‘the magistrate ignored all the procedures and dismissed all the evidence in favour of the accused.
‘He [the judge] only wanted to complete his ‘sacred duty’ to punish an alleged blasphemer. We expect the same fate for Sunny Mushtaq.
‘They were arrested for a teenage game. Their families are suffering greatly.
‘Our legal team at The Voice is doing everything necessary to grant them justice, helping their families and standing by their side in these dark and difficult times.’
Pictured: A photograph of a sentence which, according to Voice4Justice, shows that Noman Masih was sentenced to death under section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws
Anthony said the drawing was sent to the friends by Bilal Ahmad, a young Muslim.
However, police took no action against Ahmad.
‘This is another example of the misuse of blasphemy laws,’ the attorney said, according to Fides.
He called on the authorities to conduct a fair investigation, and said that his lawyers intended to appeal the sentence, and could go to the High Court of Lahore.
Images recieved over WhatsApp are automatically downloaded to a person’s phone, and can even be automatically backed-up with the right settings.
This means that any images Masih would have recieved would have been saved on to his phone automatically, whether he wanted them or not.
Pakistan has been staunchly criticised for its extreme blasphemy laws, which critics say are used to persecute and intimidate members of religious minorities.
In 2020, an American man was shot and killed in a courtroom in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on charges that he had claimed to be a prophet.
In August 2021, an eight-year-old Hindu boy was faving the death penalty after becoming the youngest person ever charged with blasphemy in the country.
In January 2022, a court sentenced a woman in Pakistan to death over ‘blasphemous’ messages sent over WhatsApp and Facebook
The boy was arrested on charges of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, or religious school, that houses religious books.
And in January 2022, a court sentenced a woman in Pakistan to death over ‘blasphemous’ messages sent over WhatsApp and Facebook.
The woman, 26-year-old Aneeqa Ateeq, said she believed the person who accused her intentionally dragged her into a religious discussion over social media so he could collect ‘evidence’ and take ‘revenge’ after she refused to be friends with him.
Nevertheless, the court found her guilty, handed her a 20-year prison sentence, and ordered for her to be hanged.