By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – A Christian who faced the death penalty in Pakistan for “blasphemy against Islam” was acquitted and quietly released after nearly 10 years in prison, Christian sources say.
The life prison term of Sajjad Masih Gill, 37, had been converted to the death penalty on March 10 under Islamist pressure, according to trial observers.
However, his attorney, Javed Sahotra, said in published regards that a two-judge division bench of the Lahore High Court acquitted Gill on the grounds of “insufficient evidence.”
In the October 26 ruling, the Court also ordered his release, which happened “quietly” to avoid Islamist outrage, Sahotra was quoted as saying by Christian news agency Morning Star News.
“My client is facing serious security risks,” Sahotra added. “We intentionally kept the news secret to avoid putting his and our lives at risk. Gill is very happy after being released from prison on November 13, but he cannot return to his normal life.”
Gill, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pakpattan, spent nine years, 10 months, and 15 days in prison on the false charge, Sahotra told Morning Star News.
A trial court sentenced Gill to life in prison in 2011 under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws against defiling Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.
A Muslim had accused Gill of sending a blasphemous message, Christians said.
However, pressured by Islamists, Lahore High Court Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan reportedly revised the sentence to death on March 10 this year.
However, the verdict was overturned last month by Lahore High Court Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Muhammad Tariq Nadeem.
Both judges reportedly said, “police failed to recover from Gill any mobile phone and SIM card” allegedly used in the offense.
The case has underscored broader concerns about blasphemy legislation in Pakistan which has been often used against minority Christians in the Islamic nation.
“It’s high time the superior judiciary and the government realize the suffering of all those accused of blasphemy. Especially those who have been framed in fake cases,” Sahotra told Morning Star News.
“Gill was 27 years old when he was arrested, and he spent almost 10 years of his youth incarcerated on a false charge. Who will compensate for the immense loss that he has suffered during this time?”
His time behind bars also impacted his elderly mother, who was widowed 32 years ago, Sahotra said. She “has been living on the edge all these years fearing for her son’s fate, but she did not lose hope,” he recalled.
“Her pain and anguish cannot be explained in words, and I think the news of Gill’s acquittal was nothing short of a miracle for her and the entire family.”
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