Man Sentenced To Death Over Disagreement With Customer Who Refused To Pay Bill
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A Christian man has been sentenced to death for blasphemy over a disagreement with a customer who refused to pay their bill.
Ashfaq Masih, 34, was arrested in 2017 in Pakistan for saying he believed in Jesus Christ, with a court deciding that he had ‘disrespected’ the Prophet Muhammad.
The statement was made when the bike mechanic got into a verbal disagreement with a Muslim customer who refused to pay the full amount for a repair job at Masih’s shop in Lahore.
Requesting the bill be reduced, the customer said he was a ‘religious devotee’ and that Masih should honour him, reports nonprofit Church in Chains.
However, the mechanic refused the request, stating that Christians believe Jesus is the prophet.
#AshfaqMasih appears for his first hearing in Lahore. 28-year-old Christian mechanic was alleged for #blasphemy last month in his workshop. pic.twitter.com/LS8ndTFQZe— Naila Inayat (@nailainayat) July 2, 2017
As they entered an argument, a crowd gathered before police were called to the scene to arrest Masih, with a court deciding he had committed an act of blasphemy.
After spending five years in police custody, he appeared at a hearing on Monday, July 4, where session judge Khalid Wazir sentenced him to death under the country’s blasphemy law.
Masih, who has a wife and daughter, pleaded his innocence in court and is planning to appeal the decision.
He said the case is 'baseless, false and frivolous', and was made by a man who wanted to ruin his business.
“I insisted for my bill and said that I don't follow anyone other than Jesus, and so wasn't interested in the man's religious status,” he explained.
Human rights groups have spoken out against Pakistan's strict blasphemy law, arguing that it is abused and leads to the torture and death of innocent people.
Speaking on the issue in light of Masih’s sentencing, Nasir Saeed – director of CLAAS-UK, which supports persecuted Christians in Pakistan – said the decision was tragic yet anticipated.
“I don't remember any case where the lower court decided to grant bail or freed anyone accused of the blasphemy law,” he commented.
“The judges are aware that such cases are made to punish and settle personal grudges with the opponents, especially against the Christians.
“Because of pressure from the Islamic groups, lower courts' judges are always hesitant to free 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.”
Why it’s time to speak up against Pakistan’s blasphemy lawhttps://t.co/4U8GASWfaf— CLAAS (@CLAASUK) July 6, 2022
Saeed continued: "The National Assembly has passed a resolution calling for the law not to be abused in ways like this, but failed to bring any changes or legislation to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law.
"CLAAS continues to raise its concerns with the Pakistani government whenever possible, but so far our call for change has fallen on deaf ears.
"CLAAS is in touch with the family and is working with its partners to submit an appeal in the high court against the lower court's judgement."
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