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Pakistan court sentences Christian man to death for blasphemy

A Pakistani judge on Thursday sentenced a Christian man to death for blasphemy. Sanitation worker Sawan Masih, whose argument with a friend set off a riot [NYT report] in which an angered Muslim crowd set fire to a Christian town last March, is to be hanged after being found guilty of insulting the prophet Mohammed. Pakistan has yet to execute anyone on death row under its blasphemy laws [text, PDF]. Masih's lawyer stated that the case would be appealed to the Lahore High Court, which has to give the final go ahead on executions. According to a recent US report, Pakistan remains [AFP report] number one in the world by a large margin in terms of countries that use blasphemy laws essentially to persecute those with opposing religious views.

There have been many incidents involving Pakistan's highly contentious blasphemy laws in recent years. In January a court in Pakistan sentenced a man to death [JURIST report] for being found to have written letters claiming to be a prophet. In August of last year a Pakistani court dismissed charges [JURIST report] against a cleric who was arrested for allegedly framing a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. In April of last year the Lahore High Court in Pakistan acquitted a Christian man [JURIST report] sentenced to death for blasphemy. In November 2012 a Pakistani court ordered police to drop blasphemy charges [JURIST report] against a 14-year-old Christian girl, which sparked international concern over the use of the country's controversial law.

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