Pakistani Christian convert sentenced to death for blasphemy plans appeal

Posted: Friday, July 05, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Lawyers for a man who was sentenced to death after converting from Islam to Christianity said Monday they would challenge his conviction in Pakistan's High Court.

Like 25-year-old Aslam Masih, scores of Christians and other non-Muslims have been jailed for blasphemy. Several were given the death penalty but no one has yet been executed.

The blasphemy laws carry the death penalty for defiling the Quran or blaspheming Islam and the prophet Muhammad.

Masih's employer, a member of the militant Sunni Tehrik group, told police that Masih, born Christian, converted to Islam to marry a Muslim woman, then reconverted to Christianity. According to the accuser, he made derogatory remarks about Muhammad.

Under Pakistani law, only the word of a Muslim accuser is needed to prosecute a non-Muslim for blasphemy. Human rights organizations in Pakistan and internationally say the blasphemy law is frequently used for religious persecution and to settle personal scores.

Pakistan's military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, tried to change the blasphemy law in 2000, but reversed course under pressure from Muslim clergy.

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