The Lahore Sessions Court in Pakistan on Tuesday sentenced Christian factory worker Asif Pervaiz to death for blasphemy. Pervaiz has been in custody since 2013 when he was first charged with blasphemy for messages he sent to his former supervisor, Muhammad Saeed Khokher.
Judge Mansoor Ahmad Qureshi sentenced Pervaiz to serve three years in prison for “misusing” his phone to send the messages and then to be executed. He was also fined Rs50,000.
Pervaiz has denied the charges, claiming that Khokher was trying to get him to convert to Islam. When he refused he was accused of having sent the messages, which Pervaiz maintains he merely forwarded to Khokher.
Pakistan, a Muslim country, has strict blasphemy laws with a mandatory death penalty for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The laws also impose strict penalties for insulting Islam, the holy Quran or certain holy people. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published a policy update on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, pushing for reform and explaining the laws and how human rights organizations claim that they are used to target religious minorities.
Pervaiz’s lawyer said he plans to appeal the ruling.