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Pakistan: Christian Sentenced to Life in Prison under Blasphemy Law

For information about the Orthodox Mission in Pakistan, see here.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.

“Christian Sentenced to Life in Prison under Blasphemy Law,” Morning Star News, February 19, 2024:

LAHORE, Pakistan (Christian Daily International–Morning Star News) – A judge sentenced a Christian to life in prison under Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes for a social media message that relatives say was posted using a phone stolen from him, sources said.

Fanson Shahid, 56, had been beaten in his home in Lahore when arrested in March 2022 and tortured into confessing after he was accused of posting a derogatory remark about the prophet of Islam in a comment on a post that another Christian had shared, his wife said.

The phone on which the Facebook comment was made had been stolen from him in 2019, she said.

Justice Zafar Yab Chadhar of the Additional Sessions Court Gujranwala District, Punjab Province, handed down the sentence on Jan. 24, but the family did not disclose it until now.

“We were praying for Shahid’s acquittal because he’s innocent, but the verdict has shattered our hopes for justice,” his sister, Sonia Shahid, told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

Investigators found Fanson Shahid’s Facebook account was logged on in the new phone they recovered in 2022 and presented that as evidence that he had made the comment. His wife, Safia Shahid, said at that time, “We believe that the lost phone was misused by someone to post the blasphemous comment, because my husband did not use a passcode for its security, and his Facebook account was also logged in.”

Fanson Shahid was convicted under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes, which calls for a mandatory death sentence for derogatory comments about Muhammad, but Chadhar cited as a “mitigating circumstance” that the comment was posted “only once.”

“If a single doubt or ground is available creating reasonable doubt in the mind of the court/judge to award even death penalty or life imprisonment, it would be sufficient circumstance to adopt alternative course by awarding life imprisonment instead of death sentence,” Chadhar wrote in the verdict.

He also handed Fanson Shahid a fine of 100,000 rupees (USD 358). Shahid was also convicted under Section 295-A, which prohibits hurting religious sentiments, and sentenced to three years in prison….

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