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Christian mechanic is sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan after he argued with a customer

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A Christian mechanic has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy after he was found guilty of insulting the prophet Mohammed by saying that Jesus Christ is the ‘true prophet’.

Ashfaq Masih, 34, was arrested in 2017 after verbally arguing with a Muslim customer at his motorcycle repair shop in Lahore after the man refused to pay his bill.

The client had requested an exemption because he was a religious devotee, but Masih declined the request, saying he believed in Jesus Christ and was not interested in the man’s religious status as a Muslim.

Masih was accused of “contemptuous” of the prophet Mohammed and arrested after he claimed that Jesus was the “true prophet” for Christians.

Five years after his arrest, Masih, who has a wife and daughter, was sentenced to death on Monday by a court in Lahore.

Ashfaq Masih, 34, was arrested in 2017 after verbally arguing with a Muslim customer at his motorcycle repair shop in Lahore after the man refused to pay his bill

Ashfaq Masih, 34, was arrested in 2017 after verbally arguing with a Muslim customer at his motorcycle repair shop in Lahore after the man refused to pay his bill

Five years after his arrest, Masih (pictured in 2017 before his first court appearance) was sentenced to death on Monday by a court in Lahore

Five years after his arrest, Masih (pictured in 2017 before his first court appearance) was sentenced to death on Monday by a court in Lahore

Five years after his arrest, Masih (pictured in 2017 before his first court appearance) was sentenced to death on Monday by a court in Lahore

His older brother, Mehmood Masih, said their family was in tears after the verdict and said it feels like “the end of the world for them.”

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting the religion or religious figures can be sentenced to death. While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, the accusation alone could spark riots.

In court, Masih maintained that he was innocent of the charges and that the case against him was “baseless, false and frivolous”.

He also said the accusation was leveled against him by a rival who wanted to destroy his motorcycle repair business.

“I pressed my bill, saying I don’t follow anyone but Jesus, so I wasn’t interested in the man’s religious status.”

Masih has been in prison for five years awaiting sentencing over a series of suspensions. His mother died in 2019 while behind bars and he was released on parole to attend her funeral.

In court, Masih (center) maintained that he was innocent of the charges and that the case against him was “baseless, false and frivolous.”

Nasir Saeed, director of the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, a charity supporting persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said in a statement. pronunciation the judgment was abhorrent.

He said: ‘I don’t remember a single case where the lower court decided to grant bail or release anyone charged with the blasphemy law. The judges are aware that such cases are made to punish and settle personal resentments with the opponents, especially against the Christians.

“Under pressure from Islamist groups, lower court judges are always hesitant to release the victims, but make popular decisions to save their skin and shift their burden to the high court.”

“He is innocent and has already spent five years in prison for a crime he never committed.”

A number of people have been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy.

In January, a Pakistani court sentenced a Muslim woman to death after finding her guilty of blasphemy for insulting the Prophet Mohammed in text messages she sent to a friend.

The woman, Aneeqa Atteeq, was arrested in May 2020 after the man warned police that she had sent him caricatures of the prophet via WhatsApp, which were considered sacrilegious.

According to a court order, the woman was also sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Domestic and international human rights groups say blasphemy charges have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

Hundreds of outraged Muslims in East Pakistan have lynched and publicly burned the body of a Sri Lankan sports equipment factory manager after he was charged with blasphemy in December 2021

Hundreds of outraged Muslims in East Pakistan have lynched and publicly burned the body of a Sri Lankan sports equipment factory manager after he was charged with blasphemy in December 2021

Hundreds of outraged Muslims in East Pakistan have lynched and publicly burned the body of a Sri Lankan sports equipment factory manager after he was charged with blasphemy in December 2021

Nearly 100 people were tried after the brutal murder of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Pakistan after a mob accused their victim of blasphemy

Nearly 100 people were tried after the brutal murder of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Pakistan after a mob accused their victim of blasphemy

Nearly 100 people were tried after the brutal murder of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Pakistan after a mob accused their victim of blasphemy

Prominent suspects were arrested after video footage of the violence showed apparent instigators inciting workers as they killed the manager, dragged him outside, took selfies with his burning body and proudly admitted what they were doing

Prominent suspects were arrested after video footage of the violence showed apparent instigators inciting workers as they killed the manager, dragged him outside, took selfies with his burning body and proudly admitted what they were doing

Prominent suspects were arrested after video footage of the violence showed apparent instigators inciting workers as they killed the manager, dragged him outside, took selfies with his burning body and proudly admitted what they were doing

In December, a Muslim mob descended on a sports equipment factory in Pakistan’s Sialkot district, killing a Sri Lankan man and burning his body in public over charges of blasphemy.

The incident was condemned nationwide and authorities arrested dozens of people for involvement in the murder of Priyantha Kumara.

A counter-terrorism court in April sentenced six men to death, nine to life, one to five years in prison and another 72 to two years each in a mass trial over the crime. Eight of the convicts were minors.

Saeed added: “The number of vigilante killings and abuse of the blasphemy law continues to increase in Pakistan, especially against religious minorities. Several innocent people have been killed and their places of worship are only being attacked on charges of blasphemy,” he said.

“The National Assembly has passed a resolution calling for the law not to be abused in this way, but has not made any changes or legislation to stop the continued abuse of the blasphemy law.

“CLAAS will continue to voice its concerns to the Pakistani government wherever possible, but so far our call for change has fallen on deaf ears.”