10th of June 2022 Two Christian brother sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan. Qaiser and Amoon Ayub were falsely accused of posting blasphemous content online in 2011. They were arrested and since then they are in the jail.
LAHORE – Two Pakistani Christian brothers have been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.
Qaisar and Amoon Ayub, from Lahore, were falsely accused of posting offensive material against Islam on their website in 2011. The duo fled the country and were on the run for four years, however they were later arrested when they returned home.
Their case was heard on Thursday (Dec 13) by the Additional Session judge Javed Iqbal Bosal, who found them guilty and sentenced them to death. The sentence was read inside District Jail Jhelum, where the two brothers have been held since their arrest, for security reasons.
In December 2018, Qaiser and Amoon were found guilty after standing trial and they were both sentenced to death.
The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an interdenominational organization dedicated to the victims of religious intolerance, has been representing the accused and now plans to appeal the sentence before the Lahore High Court.
They have been defended in their case by the Christian charity CLAAS, which submitted an appeal to the High Court against the death sentence.
The appeal was heard in February and the judgment upholding their death sentence was announced on Wednesday.
CLAAS said it would now appeal to the Supreme Court.
Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK, said, "We all were hoping that because the court had reserved the verdict, and because they were taking so long to announce it, blasphemy charges against them would be dropped and both would be freed.
"But to the contrary, the High court upheld their death sentence. Both brothers were looking weak as they are already suffering from health issues."
Saeed said he was "very hopeful" that the brothers will eventually be freed when the case comes before the Pakistan Supreme Court.
"Unfortunately, we cannot tell how long it will take but we are hopeful that the country's highest court will do justice," he said.
"This will be the third case of blasphemy which will be heard by the Supreme Court. We still believe that the brothers are innocent and it has not been proved that they had published any blasphemous contents."
Blasphemy remains a highly combustible issue in Pakistan. Mere allegations can set off spasms of violence and mass riots. Several religious parties have used it to flex their muscles.
The blasphemy law prescribes a death sentence for anyone convicted of insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). But critics say the law has been mostly misused, often to settle personal vendettas and property disputes. Religious minorities are especially vulnerable to such accusations, and people who have advocated for changes in the blasphemy law have met with violence.
In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province and an outspoken politician who had campaigned for a Christian woman’s release and changes in the country’s blasphemy laws, was shot and killed by his police bodyguard outside a cafe in an upscale area of Islamabad.
Two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister of minorities and the only Christian cabinet minister in the Pakistani government, was shot and killed outside his home in Islamabad after he also called for changes to the blasphemy law.
In October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court fully acquitted Asia Bibi, the Christian Pakistani woman whose conviction in 2009 rallied international condemnation of blasphemy laws in the South Asian country, and ordered her “released forthwith,” in an exceptionally rare ruling against a blasphemy verdict.
Following the verdict, violent protests erupted in several cities, mostly by supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik, the religious party of the firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, one of the TLP leaders, told supporters in Lahore that the three justices who delivered the verdict were risking death. He also called for the removal of the Pakistan army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Protesters in Islamabad blocked one of the main highways that connect the capital to the neighboring city of Rawalpindi. They also burned tires and chanted slogans against the decision.
In the southern port city of Karachi, hundreds of members of Tehreek-e-Labbaik disrupted traffic at intersections.