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Copyright: Huff Post
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Copyright: Huff Post
World News

Christian father given life sentence for blaspheme in Pakistan

by Lydia Davies

A Christian man in Lahore, Pakistan has been sentenced to life in prison under the country’s blasphemy laws.

The verdict, handed down to Fanson Shahid by the Additional Sessions Court Gujranwala District in Punjab Province has sent shockwaves through the country and beyond.

The case revolved around a social media comment allegedly posted by Shahid, 56.

His wife, who wants to remain anonymous, has said he was beaten in his home in Lahore when arrested in March 2022. She said he was then tortured into confessing after he was accused of posting a derogatory remark about the prophet of Islam in a comment on a post that another Christian had shared.

In a statement she said: “We believe that the lost phone was misused by someone to post the blasphemous comment, because my husband did not use a passcode for its security, and his Facebook account was also logged in.”

His sister, Sonia Shahid, said in an interview: “We were praying for Shahid’s acquittal because he’s innocent, but the verdict has shattered our hopes for justice,”

Fanson Shahid was sentenced to life in prison under Pakistan’s blasphemy law on January 24, 2024.

Despite their pleas and evidence suggesting potential misuse of the device, the court found Shahid guilty under Section 295-C of Pakistan's blasphemy statutes, which mandates a mandatory death sentence for blasphemous comments against the Prophet Muhammad.

The judge, while handing down the sentence, noted that the comment was posted only once, which he considered a "mitigating circumstance." In addition to the life sentence, Shahid was fined 100,000 rupees (£1,000). He was also convicted under other sections of the law, including “hurting religious sentiments”, “causing communal unrest”, and “promoting religious hatred on social media”.

These convictions resulted in additional prison terms and fines.

The verdict left Shahid's family, including two children, fearful for their safety.

They have been forced to relocate from their home due to security concerns.

Prominent Christian lawyer Lazar Allah Rakha criticised the court's decision, highlighting contradictions in witness statements and a lack of evidence. He argued that Shahid should have been acquitted as the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Moreover, there are glaring contradictions in the statements of the prosecution witnesses which discredit the entire prosecution evidence,” Rakha told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “The court blindly relied on the prosecution’s evidence instead of viewing both the prosecution and defence’s versions,” he said.

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