South Asia

Christian man in Pakistan sentenced to death on blasphemy charges over WhatsApp

A Christian man from Pakistan was awarded a death sentence after he was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani Court on 14 September 2017. Nadeem James was convicted of insulting Islam especially the Prophet Mohammed, in a WhatsApp message that he sent to a Muslim friend in 2016.
His lawyer Anjum Wakeel told Agence France-Presse (AFP), “James was handed a death sentence by the court on Thursday on blasphemy charges.”
Wakeel also added, “My client will appeal the sentence in the high court as he has been framed by his friend who was annoyed over James’ affair with a Muslim girl.”
According to the lawyer, James’s trial was held inside a prison because of security reasons as local Muslim clerics had threatened him and his family.
Nadeem James, 28 years old, is a tailor by profession and belongs to the Gujrat District. It is claimed that he is illiterate. He was forced to flee from his home in July 2016, after he was accused of sending blasphemous messages insulting the Prophet Mohammed through WhatsApp to his friend Yasir Bashir.
According to reports James had an argument about religion with Bashir, a few days before Bashir accused him of blasphemy. It was also reported that the First Information Report against James was filed by Bashir under pressure from local Islamic leaders who had also threatened the police of an agitation if a complaint against James was not registered.
When the police were not able to find James on raiding his house, they had arrested two of his sister in laws instead. Later the women were let go as soon as James was arrested.
On the basis of the evidence provided by Bashir, the police had filed case number 301/16 under Sections 295-C (defaming the Prophet Mohammed; punishable by death and a fine) and 295-A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings, punishable by up to 10 years of prison and a fine) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Blasphemy is a major tool of harassment in Pakistan against the Christian minority. According to records kept by Reuters, there have been at least 67 murders over unproven allegations of blasphemy since 1990.