A Christian man in Pakistan has been sentenced to death by a court after he refused to convert to Islam and was allegedly framed on blasphemy charges.
Fox News reported that 37-year-old Asif Pervaiz, a former garment factory worker living in poverty, was convicted of blasphemy in 2013. After spending the last seven years confined to a jail cell, earlier this month he was sentenced to die by hanging.
Pervaiz’s attorney, a man named Saif Malook, told Fox News the situation started when his client was asked to embrace the Muslim faith by his boss.
“This is a tragic situation; the first case in Pakistan’s recent history where a Christian has been accused of blasphemy for refusing to embrace Islam,” Malook told the network.
“This man, Asif’s boss, wanted him to leave Christianity, and Asif knew he would suffer a lot by saying no. But he kept his faith,” he added.
The entire saga began in 2013, when Pervaiz’s boss, a man named Muhammad Saeed Khokher, had repeatedly pressured him to abandon Christ.
Khoker, according to Malook, later showed police a text message he said he had received from Pervaiz which was “blasphemous” and defamed Muhammad, who Muslims claim was a prophet.
Malook said his client never sent any such message.
The attorney argued that the text message could have been sent by any person who had the funds to purchase a mobile SIM card and send a message.
Despite mounting a defense, Pervaiz was convicted under Section 295-C of the country’s penal code.
The punishment for blaspheming Muhammad in Pakistan is death.
The Barnabas Fund, an organization that assists persecuted Christians across the globe, reported that Pervaiz has denied the charges against him, and said his former boss, Khokher, only went to police after Pervaiz quit his job at the factory.
Pakistani Christian Asif Pervaiz was sentenced to death on 8 September after he was convicted of sending text messages with “blasphemous content”.https://t.co/DpEaMrWAYg
— Barnabas Fund (@BarnabasFund) September 16, 2020
The court that convicted Pervaiz informed him earlier this month he will be “hanged by his neck until death.”
The 37-year-old’s attorney is appealing the death sentence, but said his client is in a poor mental state and risks spending more time in prison while the appeals process plays out.
“As a person, Asif has always been a special young man – very strong, and he never wept until this month when they sentenced him to death,” Malook said.
“I’ve told him that he must find his strength – it is a long journey ahead, that he will not survive unless he can stay strong. I wanted to lie and tell him it would be over soon, but it will be many more years of fighting,” the lawyer told Fox News.
Pervaiz has a wife and four children, and the family is relying on Christian charities to feed them while they remain in hiding.
Fox News reported Pervaiz’s wife has also been diagnosed with cancer.
Malook is calling for the help of Christians in the West to help his client, who has spent seven years languishing alone in a separate part of a prison in Lahore in northern Pakistan.
“We need the help of the western Christian world,” he begged.
Malook told Fox News that inmates accused of blaspheming Muhammad are not in danger from other prisoners, but the isolated part of the facility where they are kept offers inadequate ventilation.
Malook represented persecuted Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi in her blasphemy case in Pakistan.
Bibi spent eight years awaiting execution before she was released and fled the country in 2018.
News of Pervaiz’s death sentence comes only a month or so after Tahir Ahmad Naseem, a U.S. citizen, was shot to death in a Pakistani courtroom after being accused of blasphemy.
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