By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
LAHORE (Worthy News) – Christians in Pakistan are weighing their options after the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence of two brothers, both Christians, for alleged “blasphemy” against Islam.
Qasir and Amoon Ayub were convicted of “blasphemy” and sentenced to death by a lower court in Jhelum in Pakistan’s Punjab province in December 2018.
Their appeal was heard by the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench early this year, but the verdict was only last week, June 8, Christians told Worthy News.
Lawyers working on behalf of the two brothers say they plan to file a further appeal with the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad, the capital.
Qasir and Amoon have been imprisoned since 2014, when there were accused of posting “disrespectful” material online in 2011. However, supporters said there was no evidence linking them to the material.
Both men were charged under all three sections of Pakistan’s controversial “blasphemy” laws, including “defiling the name” of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, which carries the death penalty.
“Blasphemy” laws have existed in the region since 1927 and were incorporated into Pakistan’s Penal Code at the country’s founding in 1947.
The legislation, colonial legacy, became more stringent under former military ruler Ziaul Haq in the 1980s, allowing long prison terms or execution.
A subsequent decision by Pakistan’s Supreme Court making the death sentence for “blasphemy” against Muhammad mandatory came into effect in 1991.
Rights groups day, the laws are often used to make false accusations to settle personal grudges. Advocacy group Barnabas Fund said that “Christians are especially vulnerable, as simply stating their beliefs can be construed as blasphemy.” It noted that “lower courts usually favor the testimony of Muslims, in accordance with sharia (Islamic law).”
Yet on May 31, the Lahore High Court released on bail Stephen Masih, a mentally disabled Christian who was accused of “blasphemy” after a dispute with his Muslim neighbor.
The case against the two brothers, who reside in Talagang Chakwal district, some 300 kilometers from Lahore, in Punjab province of Pakistan, was registered in 2011.
The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS-UK) that represented the brothers said Qaisar Ayub had a quarrel with a colleague at his office in 2011 over a “girl issue.”
His rival then approached the police for registration of a blasphemy case against him and his brother, CLAAS-UK said.
Both managed to flee the country following the registration of the case. “First, the Christian brothers went to Singapore, then to Thailand, but could not manage to get their stay extended in either place and returned to Pakistan in 2012,” the group recalled.
However, “Upon their arrival, they were arrested by the police,” CLAAS-UK explained.
Both brothers are married. Qaisar Ayub has three children.
Christians urged prayers for the brothers and that their death sentence “will be overturned” on appeal in the Islamic nation.
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